Cold case: Family of man who died 1 month after attack seeks justice 3.5 years after death

By Samiar Nefzi

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) -- A mountain family is seeking justice for a family member who died in an assault that led to his death.

On December 15, 2018, Russell “Leon” Clontz died from injuries sustained during an attack one month prior.

“I never got to say goodbye,” said Clontz’s younger sister, Amy Clontz. “Those are the hardest ones when you don’t get to say goodbye.”

“I’m a mad mom,” said Clontz’s mother, Sherryll Talton. “Leon is no longer with us, and we're just trying to be his voice.”

Talton told News 13 her son was “jumped” and shot in the back of the head, but he did not die. Rather, Clontz was able to make it back to his grandparents’ house in Madison County where his health declined over several months.

“He walked around with the bullet sitting in the middle of his brain,” said Talton.

In November of 2018, Clontz was found collapsed in the basement of his grandparent’s home and taken to an area hospital for treatment.

Then on December 15, 2018, Clontz died -- just five days after turning 40 years old.

“It’s destroyed our family,” said his sister, Amy. “Nothing will ever be the same.”

“I said to my son, ‘Leon, I’m not going to stop until I figure out who did this to you,’” said Talton.

Madison County Sheriff's Office and Buncombe County Sheriff's Office have been investigating the case.

Luther told News 13 the delay in the reporting of the assault has added challenges to the case.

“It makes it more difficult,” Luther said. “When crimes like this happen, they’re reported quickly, so we have a crime scene to process. In this case we don’t have a crime scene.”

Luther confirmed the case is still active, and investigators are looking into every possible lead.

However, the case is not currently a homicide; instead, it's an assault.

“How can I go on living not knowing who did this to my brother?” said Amy Clontz. "We want answers and we want closure.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office at 828-250-4503, or the Madison County Sheriff's Office at 828-649-2721.

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