Autopsy: NC inn worker died of strangulation

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — An autopsy says an aspiring chef slain last year at a scenic North Carolina inn was strangled to death.

The autopsy released Monday by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner lists strangulation as the cause of death for 29-year-old Sara Ellis, who died in July 2018 near the Pisgah Inn. The autopsy also notes blunt force trauma to the face.

Her former co-worker at the inn, Derek Shawn Pendergraft, was charged last year with first-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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