Man pleads guilty, sentenced in killing of CPCC counselor

- The man charged with killing a beloved college counselor back in 2016 plead guilty to all charges Thursday afternoon in Mecklenburg County court. 

Amanda Strous, 27, was strangled and burned to death inside her apartment in June 2016. Matthew Benner was charged with arson and her murder.

On Thursday, Benner was sentenced to 38.3 to 49 years in prison for the crimes.

Investigators said Benner lived in the apartment above Strous along Toscana Road in the Steele Creek neighborhood.

Police said after the brutal murder he reportedly set her apartment on fire to cover it up. The autopsy report showed that Strous was only wearing a bathing suit bottom and her mouth was covered up with duct tape. First responders also found matches and a lighter inside the apartment. 

Search warrants revealed Benner was allegedly interested in dating Strous, who was engaged. Neighbors said Benner wouldn't let anyone near the burning apartment as he stood outside covered in blood. 

Benner fled the crime scene and was able to travel from Charlotte to Nevada. Authorities were able to track him using his GPS signal from his cell phone. Benner was arrested in Nevada where he confessed to killing Strous. 

Related: Man accused of killing college counselor back in Charlotte

Once back in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Benner pleaded not guilty in court. Prosecutors have said they will not be seeking the death penally. 

On Thursday, Benner took a plea deal to avoid life in prison. He plead guilty to second degree murder and first degree arson.

"We lost the love of our lives," Amanda Strous' mother, Crystal Strous, said in court Thursday. 

Amanda Strous had worked as a college counselor at CPCC and was engaged to be married weeks before she died. 

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