Crime & Courts

Suspect’s attorneys: Public should wait for the facts in woman’s slaying

Mathew Benner, in a booking photo from Nevada.
Mathew Benner, in a booking photo from Nevada.

Attorneys for a man accused of killing a college counselor in Charlotte said Saturday that the public should let the legal system play out before forming opinions in the case.

Nevada police say Mathew Thomas Benner, 28, a field services representative for an air traffic control software company, confessed to the killing after being arrested last week in Nevada.

“Law enforcement in Nevada made statements regarding alleged events surrounding Mr. Benner’s arrest,” said Jeremy Smith of Smith Horton Law of Charlotte in a statement released Saturday.

“There has also been extensive speculation in various media reports about the events at issue in this case,” the statement said. “We, as officers of the court and as the attorneys for Mr. Benner, ask that the public reserve judgment in this case until the facts are presented in court.

“We have complete confidence in the justice system’s ability to find the truth, and we do not intend to try this case in the media,” the statement said.

Benner has also retained Corey Parton of Parton Buckingham in Charlotte.

Benner was accused in the slaying of Amanda Strous, 27, of Charlotte, who was planning to get married next month.

Investigators had tracked Benner’s cellphone to Pahrump, Nev., about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. Deputies found Benner sleeping in his car at a Best Western hotel.

“An interview was conducted and confession obtained from Benner,” the Nye County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement last week.

Smith, who traveled to Nevada to meet with Benner, said he would have no comment on the statement from the sheriff's office.

Benner has no previous criminal record. He is expected to return to Charlotte to face charges as early as this week.

Strous’ mother has said Benner and Strous lived in the same apartment complex, The Enclave at Rivergate, but she said they weren’t romantically involved and she wasn’t sure how her daughter knew Benner. A neighbor at the apartment complex recalled seeing Strous and a man she believed to be Benner arguing loudly in a breezeway this year.

Police were called to The Enclave around 5:30 p.m. June 18 by a neighbor who saw a fire, which authorities later said appeared to have been deliberately set in Strous’ unit. Strous was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-Steele Creek, where she was pronounced dead.

Strous grew up in York, Pa., and went to college in Shippensburg, Pa., where she played field hockey for Shippensburg University from 2007 until 2010. She graduated with a degree in psychology and a minor in art.

After graduation, she spent a year as an assistant coach at Hamilton College in New York. She returned to Shippensburg in 2012 to work as an assistant coach while studying for a master’s degree in counseling.

She moved to Charlotte last year to be close to her fiance, Cory McCleaf, and had worked for about six months as a counselor at Central Piedmont Community College’s Harper Campus, off Nations Ford Road, helping students plan their academic paths.

Cleve Wootson Jr., Karen Sullivan and Rachel Harzog contributed.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs