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Murder of Katie Autry: The student was raped and set on fire by Stephen Soules

Mugshot of Stephen Soules
Stephen Soules admitted to raping and murdering Katie Autry. However, he claims his accomplice got away scot-free. Pic credit: Kentucky Dept. of Corrections

Melissa ‘Katie’ Autry was a freshman student at Western Kentucky University when on May 4, 2003, she was savagely attacked in her dorm room. The 18-year-old was raped and stabbed before being set on fire.

Autry had severe injuries, which included three-degree burns from her neck to her knees. Three days later, she passed away from her injuries at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

The police zeroed in on two suspects, Stephen Soules and Lucas Goodrum, who had both attended a frat party with Autry the night she was attacked.

Authorities believe that Soules accompanied Autry back to her dorm, where he beat, raped, and sodomized her. He stole items from the room to make it look like a burglary, and then he set fire to Autry.

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Stephen Soules pleaded guilty

During the investigation, Soules implicated Goodrum, and both men were arrested. Initially, the pair both pleaded not guilty; however, Soules then changed his plea to guilty after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty if he testified against Goodrum.

Soules claimed that Goodrum had forced him to rape Autry and to cover up the crime.

In March 2005, Goodrum was found not guilty. Despite the testimony of Soules and several inmates who claimed Goodrum had told them about the crime, he was acquitted. Goodrum’s lawyers had argued that there were no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence to link Goodrum to the dorm.

Two months later, Soules was sentenced to life in prison. He told a detective, “It was not my fault, and I’m sorry. I know my ‘sorrys’ can’t bring her back. She won’t ever have to go through nothing like that again.”

More from Southern Gothic

Follow the links to read about more grisly crimes perpetrated in America’s South.

Previously on Southern Gothic, Kimberly Rene Mangrum persuaded her two stepchildren to help her murder their mother, LeeAnn Mangrum. Investigators believed she was jealous of the relationship her husband’s ex-wife had with her children.

On February 18, 2015, Cindy Reese shot dead her husband Michael in their Alabama home and then tried to stage the scene, so it looked like a home invasion. Jeffrey Brown was a preacher who was having an affair with Cindy, and he helped her dispose of the murder weapon. The police think they killed Michael Resse so they could be together.

Southern Gothic airs Mondays at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

Jerry Brown


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