Matthew Benner Pleads Guilty to Killing CPCC Student Counselor Amanda Strous

CHARLOTTE, NC– “We really just prayed the Lord would soften his heart and that he would own up to his actions,” said Amanda Strous’s mother, Crystal Strous.

The family of Amanda Strous had their prayers answered. The 27-year-old’s killer, Matthew Benner, pleaded guilty in court to second degree murder and arson. Prosecutors say he strangled Strous in June of 2016. Firefighters found the bride-to-be inside her burning apartment in Steele Creek. She died in the hospital.

“It’s a horrible, horrible thing that happened and I believe and Matt believes it’s more important to let the Strouss family go ahead and heal that’s one of the reasons we sought out a plea,” said Benner’s defense attorney, Jeremy Smith.

Benner did not speak in court but his attorney says he’s remorseful and apologizes for his crime. Amanda’s mother and aunt chose to speak before the sentencing.

“As a mother of three children I can honestly say that a huge piece of me died that day, there’s nothing that can compare to the loss of a child,” said Strous.

Amanda’s aunt says the family believes the CPCC student counselor would want them to forgive.

“This sentencing hearing is the first step of many towards our freedom, healing and forgiveness journey of which we all will handle differently,” said Amanda’s aunt, Pamela Murdock.

Amanda’s parents, two brothers and fiance were all in the courtroom as well as extended family who all say they honor her by continuing her legacy of live, laugh love.

“It was just how she lived her life, she lived everyday to the fullest, she loved life,” said mom, Crystal Strous.

By pleading guilty Benner avoided a possible death penalty, instead he’ll spend life in prison. Meanwhile, Strous’s family says they’ll continue her memory through her Flyhigh 22 Foundation created in her honor.