Apoptosis, cell death characterized by stereotypical morphological features, requires caspase proteases. Nonapoptotic, caspase-independent cell death pathways have been postulated; however, little is known about their molecular constituents or in vivo functions. Here, we show that death of the Caenorhabditis elegans linker cell during development is independent of the ced-3 caspase and all known cell death genes. The linker cell employs a cell-autonomous death program, and a previously undescribed engulfment program is required for its clearance. Dying linker cells display nonapoptotic features, including nuclear crenellation, absence of chromatin condensation, organelle swelling, and accumulation of cytoplasmic membrane-bound structures. Similar features are seen during developmental death of neurons in the vertebrate spinal cord and ciliary ganglia. Linker cell death is controlled by the microRNA let-7 and Zn-finger protein LIN-29, components of the C. elegans developmental timing pathway. We propose that the program executing linker cell death is conserved and used during vertebrate development.