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The man accused of killing a Dallastown Area High School graduate has pleaded not guilty to his charges, according to a court official.

Mathew Benner, 29, charged last year in the death of Amanda Strous, 27, in her North Carolina home, pleaded not guilty to first-degree arson and murder, according to Meghan McDonald, community liaison coordinator for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office.

Strous was pulled from her burning apartment June 18, 2016, and rushed to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead, officials said.

Benner and Strous lived in the same apartment complex on Toscana Way in the Steele Creek area of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, according to Benner's arrest warrant.

The warrant states that Benner "willfully and feloniously" and with "malice aforethought" murdered Strous and torched her apartment

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An autopsy report confirmed Strous was strangled in her home before it was set on fire. She also suffered extensive burns and blunt-force injuries, the report states.

Additionally, Strous' mouth was covered with duct tape, according to the autopsy report from the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office.

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She was the daughter of Eric and Crystal Strous of York Township.

No court date has been set yet for Benner, according to McDonald.

Strous: 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 graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 2007, then from Shippensburg University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in art. 

She graduated from Shippensburg in 2015 with a master's degree in mental-health counseling, according to a news release on the university's website.

Strous played field hockey at Shippensburg from 2007 to 2010. 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 university's website.

Strous and fiance Cory McCleaf planned to marry July 30, 2016, according to her loved ones.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

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