AP NEWS

Autopsy: North Carolina inn worker died of strangulation

April 1, 2019

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.