MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- A man accused in the strangling death of a University of North Carolina Charlotte student has died the day before his trial.

Multiple media outlets reported 55-year-old Neal Cassada's lawyer said his client died at home Sunday morning.

Cassada was scheduled for trial Monday on charges of first degree murder and criminal conspiracy in the 2008 death of 20-year-old Irina Yarmolenko in Gaston County.

Defense attorney David Phillips says Cassada had a history of breathing and heart problems and collapsed shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday.

District Attorney Locke Bell says officers are trying to determine if there is evidence of suicide or foul play. Phillips says he's confident the death was from natural causes, noting his client was under stress.

Cassada's cousin, Mark Carver of Gastonia, is awaiting trial.

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