CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The man accused of killing a Charlotte college counselor and then setting her body on fire plead not guilty in court Thursday.

Matthew Benner is accused of murdering 27-year-old bride-to-be Amanda Strous in June 2016. An autopsy revealed that Strous was strangled to death before Benner allegedly taped her mouth shut and set her on fire.

Investigators said that Benner later confessed to the crime. He was charged with first-degree arson and murder.

According to search warrants, multiple witnesses told Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police they heard a scream and then fire alarms going off. Several of those witnesses claimed to have seen a man nervous and sweating, who blocked anyone from going into Strous’ apartment, before running off.

Benner was arrested in Nevada through a combined effort with U.S. Marshals Violent Offender Task Force, Nye County Sheriff’s Office, and CMPD’s VCAT unit. While executing a search warrant inside Benner's apartment, detectives seized several items, including matches and lighter fluid.

In October, prosecutors announced they will not seek the death penalty against Benner, but he could face life in prison if convicted.

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