Man accused of strangling Pisgah Inn coworker expected in court

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Derek Pendergraft

BUNCOMBE Co., N.C. (WSPA) — A man accused of strangling his coworker near a popular inn along the Blue Ridge Parkway is expected to plead guilty Monday.

Federal authorities say Derek Pendergraft killed Sara Ellis in July 2018 near the Pisgah Inn. 

Pendergraft’s plea hearing is scheduled Monday afternoon in Asheville, according to court documents.

Pendergraft was charged with second-degree murder in Ellis’ death.

U.S. District Attorney Andrew Murray previously said in a news release that Pendergraft reported the victim missing after claiming the two had gone for a hike before parting ways on July 24, 2018. 

Rangers and first responders found the victim’s body lying near a trail off an embankment in the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Ellis was 29 years old. 

Authorities say Pendergraft confessed to killing Ellis to the inn manager. 

Pendergraft’s plea hearing was previously scheduled for Aug. 21, 2019, before it was rescheduled for Aug. 26, according to court records.

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