Autopsy released of woman murdered on Blue Ridge Parkway

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A woman killed last summer on the Blue Ridge Parkway had multiple blunt force injuries to her head, chest, arms and legs and died of strangulation, her autopsy reveals. Sara Ellis, 29, was working as a cook at Pisgah Inn when a co-worker, Derek Shawn Pendergraft, 21, reported her missing.

Pendergraft said the two had gone for a hike after work but it began to rain and Ellis decided to return home. Pendergraft claimed he continued hiking and on his way back saw Ellis’ umbrella and hat on the ground. Rangers and first responders found Ellis’ body about a half mile from the trail.

Shortly after, Pendergraft confessed to the manager at the Pisgah Inn that he had killed Ellis. He faces one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse. Those convicted of first-degree murder face life in prison or death.

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