Man accused of killing beloved CPCC counselor pleads not guilty

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The case against a man accused of killing a Central Piedmont Community College counselor and setting her apartment on fire will go to trial.

Matthew Benner entered a not guilty plea Thursday morning in the death of Amanda Strous.

Police said Benner strangled Strous in June 2016 insider her apartment on Toscana Way, before lighting it on fire and fleeing.

Benner escaped to Nevada, but was arrested a couple of days later and was brought back to Charlotte.

[Photos of Amanda Strous]

Investigators said Benner lived in the unit directly above Strous and believe he may have been stalking her. Police found some of her personal items in his apartment during the investigation.

Strous was set to be married a few weeks after she was killed.

[PAST COVERAGE: Slain college counselor laid to rest]

A year after prosecutors announced they would not pursue the death penalty, they are prepared to take his case to a jury.

Rob Corbett, a defense attorney and former prosecutor, said Benner's attorneys may be willing to take that risk especially if prosecutors hadn't made a plea offer they could accept.

“There's always a risk going to trial in any case,” Corbett said. “A trial is always a risk, especially for these types of trials, because things can go bad and the stakes are just so high.”

A trial date has not been set.

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