Derek Shawn Pendergraft, 22, of Asheville, has been sentenced to life in prison, for the murder of his coworker, Sara Ellis. On August 26, 2019, Pendergraft pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated sexual abuse resulting in death. According to filed court documents and statements made in court, on July 24, 2018, Pendergraft, who worked at the Pisgah Inn, murdered his co-worker, Sara Ellis, during the perpetration of aggravated sexual abuse.
The murder occurred on the Blue Ridge Parkway, within the special territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and within the Western District of North Carolina.
He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.