Man pleads guilty to murder of Amanda Strous

The man who killed Dallastown High School graduate Amanda Strous in North Carolina could spend nearly 50 years in prison.

Dallastown Area High School graduate Amanda Strous was killed June 18, 2016, in her North Carolina apartment, police said.
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Mathew Benner, 30, charged in 2016 in the death of Strous, pleaded guilty Thursday, April 5, according to Meghan McDonald, community liaison coordinator for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office.

McDonald said Benner was arraigned Thursday, and he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree arson and malicious damage to occupied property by the use of an incendiary device. 

He was sentenced to 460 to 588 months in prison, she said, which is about 38 years to 49 years in prison.

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Mathew Benner, taken after he was returned to North Carolina from Nevada on July 4, 2016, to face a murder charge in the slaying of Amanda Strous.

Background: Strous, 27, 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.

A grand jury in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on July 11, 2016, indicted Benner, then 28, on charges of first-degree arson and murder, according to Charles Keller Jr., community access and outreach administrator for the trial court administrator's office in Mecklenburg County.

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

Benner fled to Nye County, Nevada, where sheriff's deputies were able to arrest him because Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police were tracking him using his cellphone's GPS signal, according to police. He was found sleeping in his car in a hotel parking lot, and he was extradited back to North Carolina on July 4, 2016.

An autopsy report confirmed that 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.

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

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 or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.