Hundreds turn out to remember Dallastown grad murdered in N.C.

Sean Philip Cotter

They piled in, a dozen deep in some places, holding candles and wearing purple.

Crystal Strous, left, is supported by her husband Eric Strous as she speaks during a candlelight vigil held in honor of their daughter Amanda Kay Strous, a former Dallastown High School graduate, at their home in York Township, Monday, June 20, 2016. Amanda was a victim of homicide Saturday, according to police in North Carolina, where she currently lived. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Hundreds of people, many with tears in their eyes, formed a circle Monday night around the intersection of Heather Drive and Primrose Lane in York Township, right in front of the house where Amanda Strous grew up.

Strous, 27, died in a Saturday-evening fire in her North Carolina apartment. Authorities say the blaze was intentionally set. Officers in Nevada on Monday arrested Mathew Thomas Benner, 28, who faces charges of murder and arson, according to police.

Friends and family pay their respects at a candlelight vigil for Amanda Strous on Monday night.

On Monday night, as the sun set on the longest day of the year, hundreds of candles flickered, joined by fireflies as darkness began to fall.

Kyle Strous took the microphone, addressing those assembled, speaking tearfully about his sister, a Dallastown Area  High School and Shippensburg University graduate who had moved to the Charlotte area last fall to work as a counselor at Central Piedmont Community College's Harper campus.

"We all know we've got one kick-ass angel watching over us," he said.

Pastor Roger Mentzer of the Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Dallastown, spoke at  length about Amanda Strous, who'd attended his church with her family.

"No one should spend Father's or Mother's Day like the Strous family did," finding out their daughter had died, he said.

A candlelight vigil is held in honor of Amanda Kay Strous, a former Dallastown High School graduate, at her parents' home in York Township, Monday, June 20, 2016. Strous was a victim of homicide Saturday, according to police in North Carolina, where Strous currently lived. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He asked people to take a minute to talk about her with the people around them — share memories, cry, pray. It was quiet for the moment, but then the volume of talking slowly turned up, people talking, many chuckling as they exchanged a few words.

The pastor led everyone in a couple of prayers — for Amanda, for her family, for everyone. The family members hugged. The circle began to close in, the mourners making their way to the family members or huddling themselves in small groups.

The family stood toward the middle of the circle. Behind them, Louise Batory stood, holding up her cell phone, a face staring out from it, watching. Louise and Bob Batory watched Amanda Strous grow up from a few doors down and their son, Brent, who was especially close with her younger brother, Garrett Strous, had been quite upset to hear about the death but was out of town and couldn't come to the vigil.

"He really wanted to be here," his mother said.

So the family Facetimed him, holding up the phone so he could see what was going on.

Louise Batory remembers Amanda from a young age.

"She was sweet, lovely, and would do anything for anybody," Batory said, smiling through tears. "But she was tough."

She and her husband recalled the neighborhood backyard games, which the future high school and college field hockey player loved.

The Batorys' three boys and the three Strouses would all play, divided up into various teams.

As soon as Louise Batory brought up football, Bob Batory's watery eyes lit up.

"Amanda, sweep right, touchdown," he said.

That was the key to victory: Give the ball to Amanda and tell the two boys on her team to go the other way, "so she didn't trip over them," he said.

"She's just cut through everybody like 'boom,'" he said, chopping his arm forward.