A bride to be was strangled and had her mouth taped shut at her North Carolina apartment before the home was set on fire, an autopsy reveals.
Amanda Strous, 27, suffered significant burns and blunt-force injuries in her June 18 death, according to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office in the US.
Strous, a counsellor at Central Piedmont Community College, was found alive in the burning house, wearing only bikini bottoms and her mouth covered with duct tape. She was rushed to hospital where she died from her injuries.
A rape kit was performed and turned over to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Matthew Thomas Benner, 28, has been charged with first-degree arson and murder in her death. Authorities believe Benner, who lived in the same apartment complex as Strous, had been stalking her.
It is not clear if Strous and Benner knew each other. A neighbour told the Charlotte Observer she once saw Strous and a man she believed to be Benner arguing loudly earlier this year.Benner fled North Carolina after Strous's death. Authorities said he confessed to the crime after he was arrested two days later near Las Vegas, CBS reports. He was found sleeping in a truck outside a hotel.
Strous was set to wed Cory McCleaf on July 30. At the time of the attack, McCleaf was in Maryland on his stag do. The couple did not live together.
McCleaf said he was devastated by his fiancee's death.
"She lit up a room when she walked in. Her smile was just one of those things that people had to be with. When she smiled they smiled," McCleaf told WSOCTV.com.
"She was the light of my world. She was one of the most positive people I've ever been around."
Strous' grief-stricken mother, Crystal Strous, said: "It's a parent's worst nightmare. You never think it's going to happen to you."