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Officials: No new evidence in deaths
Case still points to one neighbor shooting the other
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Forsyth County News

Authorities say no new evidence has surfaced in last week's shooting deaths of two neighbors in eastern Forsyth County.

Forsyth County Sheriff's investigators said Tuesday they are awaiting the results of autopsies and forsenic testing from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab, which could take three to four weeks.

In the meantime, they say, it still appears that one man killed the other before shooting himself.

William Miller, an employee of 75-year-old Iowa Hill "Buddy" Preston, found Preston's body about 1 p.m. Aug. 6 in his apartment on Carlton Road. The apartment is one of four at the site Preston owned.

Miller worked for Preston at Appliance Heaven on Franklin Goldmine Road in west Forsyth.

Just hours after Miller's discovery, authorities found the body of John Michael Lito, 50, in an apartment he rented next door to Preston.

Both men had been shot, authorities said, and Lito's wound appeared to be self-inflicted.

"According to our pathologist, preliminary indications are that Lito's wound was consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound," said Capt. Paul Taylor, commander of the sheriff's criminal investigations division.

Taylor said those same indications show Preston died as the result of a single gunshot wound.

Within hours of finding the bodies, Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton said the case was being investigated as a murder-suicide.

Miller said he worked for Preston for 30 years and had known Lito for five years. He said he just can't understand what happened.

"Buddy and John were good friends and that's why I just can't believe it was John that had done that," Miller said.

He said when he found Preston, he thought he'd had a heart attack.

When Preston's body was found, Lito immediately became a person of interest.

Authorities said Lito was arrested July 26 on aggravated battery charges after he allegedly beat another tenant, David Payne, and then took him to the hospital for treatment.

Authorities have said Preston was a witness to the incident.

Lito was released Aug. 1 from the Forsyth County Detention Center.

Sheriff's investigators said last week that Payne came home from the hospital on the morning of Aug. 5  to find that his apartment had been burglarized and two firearms were missing.

Lito was a suspect in the burglary, they said. Both guns were later found inside his apartment.

Sheriff's Lt. Col. Gene Moss said they still are waiting for autopsy reports and other forensic evidence before the case can be closed.

Moss and Taylor said the reports could take three to four weeks to return.

Moss said authorities are willing to talk with anyone who may have any information about the shootings.

Sheriff's investigators were scheduled to talk with Preston on Aug. 5 about the Lito-Payne altercation, but he never arrived.

Miller said he thought that was suspicious.

"He's never late for his appointments and he's usually here at 8:30," he said. "So all day Tuesday [Aug. 5] I didn't hear nothing from him or Tuesday night.

"Wednesday, I still couldn't get a hold of him on his phone. We had talked Monday about the boat dock and I thought I better go over there and check on that boat dock before the water disappears."

Miller said Preston owned boat slips on Lake Lanier, where the water level continues to receded under the withering drought.

Miller said he noticed that Preston's trucks were parked in his driveway and hadn't been moved when he arrived Aug. 6 at the quadriplex.

"That's when I realized the screen door, it looked like somebody had busted it open," he said. "That's when I went in and found Buddy laying there in his bed."

Miller said Preston's head was covered by a pillow, which is confirmed in the incident report. He immediately called 911.

"I thought it was just a heart attack," Miller said. "I know his health has been bad, but that's what I thought it was. I would have never dreamed of this."

Preston's former brother-in-law John Smart said he had known Preston for about 50 years.

Smart said Preston had a son with his twin sister, June.

Smart's wife Margie said she did not know how or where to contact their nephew.

John Smart said he attended North Fulton High School in Buckhead with
Preston. He remembered his former classmate as a property owner and car enthusiast.

"He's got two or three houses on Lake Lanier," and property in Cumming, Buckhead and Helen, John Smart said.

He said the quadriplex Preston lived in used to be a motel on Lakewood Avenue in Atlanta.

"There used to be a motel out there and he bought it at auction and brought it up here and put it up there," Smart said.

He added that Preston also owned several antique cars and recruited a band from Bavaria for Helen's Oktoberfest a couple of years ago.

"He collected antique automobiles," he said. "He has a 1934 Dodge four-door convertible up there in Helen."

Funeral arrangements, if any, have not been released for either man.

An official with McDonald & Sons Funeral Home said Lito's body had been cremated last weekend and Preston's body was scheduled for cremation Wednesday.