Dallastown grad slain in her North Carolina home, man arrested
A Dallastown Area High School graduate who later played and coached field hockey at Shippensburg University was the victim of a homicide, according to police in Charlotte, North Carolina, who have announced an arrest in the case.
Amanda Strous was pulled from her burning Charlotte-Mecklenburg apartment on Saturday night and taken to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to police, who said the fire was intentionally set.
Strous, 27, was pronounced dead Saturday night, the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Monday.
She was to be married in about six weeks.
An autopsy was expected to be performed some time Monday, according to the office.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police on Monday afternoon announced they've arrested a man who will be charged with murder and first-degree arson.
Mathew Thomas Benner, 28, was arrested Monday in Nevada and will be held in the custody of the Nye County Sheriff's Office there until he can be extradited back to North Carolina, according to police.
The Charlotte Observer newspaper is reporting that public records there indicate Benner used to live on the same street as Strous.
Police and firefighters were called to Strous' apartment in the 12000 block of Toscana Way in the Steele Creek area at 5:36 p.m. Saturday, where the young woman was pulled from the burning building, police said.
She was transported to the Carolinas Medical Center/Steele Creek and pronounced dead, according to police.
"The initial investigation indicates that the fire was intentionally set while the female was inside the apartment," police wrote, adding that their homicide investigation is in its early stages.
"Detectives have determined this was not a random act of violence," according to the email.
'Special person': Strous was the daughter of Eric and Crystal Strous of York Township.
Eric Strous said his daughter was an active young woman with "a laundry list" of accomplishments in her short life.
"Amanda was a very special person," he told The York Dispatch. "She was an incredible athlete, but she also was a great academic individual."
She loved counseling young adults, Eric Strous said.
Amanda Strous worked as a counselor at Central Piedmont Community College's Harper campus for about six months, according to college spokeswoman Kathy Scott Rummage.
"She helped students plan ... their academic paths and helped them be successful in their programs of study," Rummage said.
The spokeswoman said the college community is grieving.
"It's very sad," she said. "We have counseling available for anybody who needs it. ... The thoughts and prayers of the college community are with Amanda's family, friends and co-workers."
Shippensburg grad: Strous, 27, graduated from Shippensburg University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in art, then graduated from the university in 2015 with a master's degree in mental-health counseling, according to a news release on the university's website.
She played field hockey at Shippensburg from 2007 to 2010. She was a forward who played in 79 games for the Raiders, scoring 24 goals and making 13 assists for 61 career points, the website states.
As a senior in 2010, a season in which Shippensburg competed in the NCAA Division II National Championship game, Strous served as a team captain and had a career year, totaling 11 goals and five assists, according to the website.
After spending her first year after graduation as an assistant coach at Hamilton College in New York, Strous returned to Shippensburg in the fall of 2012 to begin her three-year run as an assistant field hockey coach while studying for her master's degree.
In 2013, Strous was the primary assistant on the Shippensburg squad that won its first-ever NCAA Division II National Championship, university officials said.
"One life matters, and indeed, the life of Amanda Strous mattered to her teammates, friends, her family and her beloved Ship family," head coach Bertie Landes was quoted as saying in the news release. "Her love, care and concern for each of us was reflected in her daily life while at Ship and in her move to North Carolina."
Strous was engaged to be married July 30, according to the university website.
'Celebrate my life': Her parents asked Shippensburg University to share something their daughter wrote during a graduate class there called Death and Dying, according to the website.
She wrote how being part of the field hockey team changed her life and urged people to pursue their passions.
"It taught me so much more than just how to be an athlete, and even though some of those life lessons were tough to learn, I am grateful for them," Amanda wrote. "I was blessed to have a family of sisters to form a bond with that was so rare. ... Please continue to find passion and meaning in your life, for without those two things, life is meaningless. Celebrate my life and reminisce through the good times, because I am in a better place, and you only live once."
Vigil, memorial fund: One of her friends has started the Amanda Strous Memorial Fund on GoFundMe.com, and money raised will be used for funeral expenses, family counseling and other necessities, according to the page.
A candlelight vigil to honor her was held Monday at her parents' home in York Township. Her family had encouraged people to wear purple, which was Amanda Strous' favorite color, according to the Facebook page announcing the vigil. Dozens and dozens of people attended, most in purple.
Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call (704) 432-TIPS and speak directly to a Charlotte-Mecklenburg homicide detective.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.