Autopsy: Bride-to-be strangled before apartment set on fire

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Amanda Strous
Amanda Strous

CHARLOTTE -- An autopsy report reveals that a beloved 27-year-old college counselor was strangled inside her southwest Charlotte apartment in June before it was set on fire.

Amanda Strous, who was a counselor at Central Piedmont Community College and a bride-to-be, suffered injuries including burns and blunt force trauma. She was found dead on June 18, just 12 days before she was set to be married.

The report shows that Strous was only wearing bathing suit bottoms and that her mouth was reportedly covered with duct tape that emergency crews had to remove, WSOC reports.

Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Thomas Benner is charged with first-degree arson and murder in her death. Authorities believe Benner, who lived in the same apartment complex as Strous, had been stalking her.

Read more about his arrest here.

Matthew Thomas Benner

A rape kit was also performed and turned over to detectives.

Read more about the incident

A sheriff in Nevada said Benner confessed to killing Strous.

A statement from Nye County, Nevada, Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said Benner confessed when he was arrested June 20 near Las Vegas.

Benner was arrested without incident after authorities traced a signal from his cellphone and found him asleep in his vehicle, the sheriff said. He confessed while being questioned by deputies, the statement said.

Strous was a field hockey player at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania from 2007-2010, the university said on its website. She went on to be an assistant coach with team as she completed her master's degree at the school from 2012-2015. Strous was the primary assistant on the squad that won its first-ever NCAA Division II National Championship in 2013, the school said.

Hundreds of mourners turned out for a candlelight vigil in front of her parents' house near York, Pa., the day Benner was arrested. They held candles, cried and wrote messages on the street in chalk.

Her mother, Crystal Strous, shared with the crowd that her daughter had taken a class about grief and loss in graduate school and had written her own obituary as part of the course.

She then read the obituary aloud, which spoke about her love of hockey and the Shippensburg community, about 40 miles southwest of Harrisburg.

"Please continue to find passion and meaning in your life, for without those two things life is meaningless," she wrote, according to text on the university's website. "Celebrate my life and reminisce through the good times, because I am in a better place and you only live once."

Relatives Kathy and Bob Sudak told the York Daily Record that Strous moved to Charlotte last year to be close to her fiance. They said she planned to marry July 30 at a golf resort near her hometown of Dallastown.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.