Suspect arrested in fatal dorm fire

Monday, May 12, 2003

Suspect arrested in fatal dorm fire

By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - A week after a Western Kentucky University freshman was found burned and stabbed in her dormitory room, authorities on Sunday charged a man with murder in the part-time student's death.

Lucas Goodrum, 21, of Scottsville was arrested about 1 a.m. by Kentucky State Police and charged with murder in the death of Katie Autry, 18, of Pellville, said university Police Chief Bob Deane.

Deane said Goodrum was not a student but would provide no other details about the suspect or his relationship to Autry, who also had worked as a dancer at a Bowling Green-area strip club.

"We made the arrest based on information we received during the course of our investigation," Deane said. "We haven't had an opportunity to do a whole lot of investigating regarding Goodrum."

Bob Edwards, vice president of university affairs, said more charges were expected to be filed, including arson.

A man who answered the telephone at the Scottsville home of Goodrum's father declined to comment Sunday. A former neighbor of Goodrum's in Franklin said he and his wife divorced last year; a telephone message left with his ex-wife was not immediately returned Sunday.

Autry's aunt, Virginia White, who was close to her niece, said Goodrum was unfamiliar to her.

Autry was found May 4 in her second floor dormitory room with third-degree burns and puncture wounds and abrasions to her face and neck. She died Wednesday at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.; autopsy results are pending.

Police have said little about the crime scene or possible motives other than the fire was deliberately set in the nine-story dorm. No other students were injured in the blaze.

White said Friday that her niece had danced for a short time at a strip club and cautioned her about the possible dangers of working in such a profession. While Deane called her early Sunday to tell her of the arrest, he would not divulge details of the investigation, including whether there was any link to her job.

"I hope that they have the right person," White said. "We still won't be satisfied until this person gets what's coming to them."

Police had questioned more than 100 students, who were preparing for finals week at the time of the fire. Among them were members of Pi Kappa Alpha, a fraternity where friends said Autry had attended a party hours before she was found in her room.

"I never was worried that it was a member of our fraternity," said fraternity house president Justin Perkins, who said he did not know Goodrum.

As Goodrum remained in the Warren County Regional Jail on $1 million cash bond Sunday, family and friends held a memorial service for Autry at Pellville Baptist Church in her hometown.

The service was coordinated by Autry's sister, Lisa Michelle Autry. It featured some of Katie's favorite country and pop songs. The church sanctuary was full, with chairs set up in the outer aisles. The former prep cheerleader was buried in her uniform from Hancock County High School.

Her funeral is scheduled for today at William L. Danks Funeral Home in Beaver Dam.

Students on Sunday continued to raise questions about security issues at university residence halls, and school President Gary Ransdell reiterated that all policies related to the dorms would be reviewed.

"We believe the residence halls are safe, but we will question everything," he said Sunday.

"As the investigation continues, we'll learn how he got into Katie's room," he said.

"We don't know at this point what took place behind the locked doors."

Molly Sims, a junior at the 16,000-student school, said entrances to the dorms needed to be more secure, especially back entrances.

"They're going to have to step up the security," said Sims, a former dorm desk clerk from Murfreesboro, Tenn. "Anyone can come in without being seen if they wanted to."

Sunday's arrest did little to lift the spirits of family members as they prepared for Autry's funeral.

"We still lost Katie, and there's nothing that can bring her back to us," White said.

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