CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The man accused of killing a 27-year-old college counselor and bride-to-be pleaded not guilty in court Thursday.
Investigators allege that Matthew Benner strangled Amanda Strous before lighting her apartment on fire. Police believe that Benner stalked his victim before the murder.
Strous' fiancé, Cory McCleaf, talked to NBC Charlotte at the Pineville Crossfit. The couple spent a significant amount of time at the gym after moving to Charlotte from Pennsylvania. He said the crossfit community has been a good support network after the murder.
“This was kind of like our family, home away from home, our family away from family,” Cory said.
However, these days Cory carries an unimaginable weight.
“Some days are easier than other ones,” he said.
Strous was brutally murdered in her home last summer. Police believe her neighbor stalked her, strangled her, and then lit the apartment on fire.
Matthew Benner was arrested more than 2,000 miles away in Nevada. According to court documents, he admitted to the crime. However, he pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday.
“I’ve been told to not really comment on it, so I have my opinions about it, the courts are going to find out what they’re supposed to find out,” says Cory.
After the murder, friends at the Crossfit paid tribute to the 27-year-old college counselor. Cory continues to work through the emotional pain.
“For the most part, trying to keep busy, trying to keep myself going,” he said.
The two were to be married just weeks after the murder.
“There’s nothing I can really do about it, other than wait to see what happens with the outcome and live with it after that,” said Cory.
Benner is now facing charges of first-degree murder and first-degree arson. He’s being held without bond.