Prosecutors: Sex assault was motive for scenic inn killing
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A new indictment alleges sexual assault was the motive for the killing of a cook at a scenic North Carolina mountain inn last summer.
Federal prosecutors announced Thursday they filed a superseding indictment adding two counts of aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death against Derek Shawn Pendergraft. The new indictment also upgrades a murder charge against him to first degree.
Prosecutors say the charges carry a maximum sentence of death.
The indictment says Sara Ellis was killed July 24 in the course of sexual assault by Pendergraft. A defense lawyer didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Pendergraft had initially told authorities the two went for a hike near the Pisgah Inn where both worked, and that he lost track of Ellis after she turned back during rain.