Asheville man sentenced to life in prison for co-worker’s 2018 murder

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Derek Pendergraft

ASHEVILLE, NC (WSPA) – A man who admitted to strangling his co-worker to death back in July 2018 was sentenced to life in prison.

According to news release, U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray announced Thursday that Derek Shawn Pendergraft, 22, of Asheville, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Sara Ellis.

In August 2019 Pendergraft pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death.

Pendergraft initially told authorities the two went for a hike and he lost track of Ellis after she turned back in the rain. Authorities later found her body off an embankment near the parkway.

Pendergraft later admitted to killing Sara Ellis, his co-worker at the Pisgah Inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in July 2018. An autopsy found that Ellis died of strangulation.

“When a life is cut short at the hands of another individual, no prison sentence is ever long enough to make things right for the victim’s loved ones,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray said. “Today’s sentence will not bring back Sara to her family and friends who miss her and think about her every day, but it is my sincere hope that everyone impacted by this heinous crime can find solace in knowing that Sara’s killer will never walk free among us again.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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