Man pleads guilty to killing co-worker at Pisgah Inn

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A former employee at a well-known North Carolina mountain inn has pleaded guilty to killing a co-worker who was an aspiring chef.

Derek Shawn Pendergraft, 22, entered the plea Monday in federal court to first-degree murder and aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death.

Pendergraft 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.

Prosecutors say in a news release that the plea deal includes a life sentence without parole, though a sentencing date hasn’t been set.

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 parkway.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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