Thursday, July 17, 2003

Two indicted in murder, dorm arson

WKU student was raped, set on fire in room

By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. - A Warren County grand jury indicted two Scottsville men Wednesday in the murder of a Western Kentucky University student who was set on fire in her dorm room.

Lucas B. Goodrum and Stephen B. Soules were charged with murder and/or complicity to commit murder, first-degree rape and/or complicity to commit first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy and/or complicity to commit first-degree sodomy, and arson and/or complicity to commit arson, according to the indictment. Soules was also charged with robbery.

Both men have been in the Warren County Regional Jail without bail since a preliminary hearing May 21, when Warren County District Judge JoAnn Spinks Coleman sent the case to the grand jury.

"I have a sense of relief. I was concerned because the time was running out," said Virginia White, aunt of Melissa "Katie" Autry, who was found beaten, stabbed and raped on May 4.

Prosecutors faced a July 20 deadline to seek an indictment. The 12-member jury based its decision on evidence that did not include forensics testing.

"This indictment speaks volumes," said Chris Cohron, assistant commonwealth's attorney.

Goodrum's and Soules' lawyers did not return calls Wednesday.

Cohron said forensics testing is still being completed at a Kentucky State Police crime lab.

Goodrum, 21, and Soules, 20, were arrested less than a week after the death of the 18-year-old freshman. Autry died May 7 at a hospital in Nashville, Tenn., where she was being treated for third- and fourth-degree burns.

She died three days after she was pulled from her smoldering dorm room at Hugh Poland Hall.

Both men could face the death penalty, Cohron said. Cohron said the state would make its decision as the case moves forward.

At the preliminary hearing, a university police detective said Soules told authorities that he watched Goodrum - a high school friend - beat, rape and set Autry on fire.

However, the detective noted that Soules, who was interviewed three times by police, "increased his involvement with each interview."

Police said Soules later told them he was having consensual sex with Autry when Goodrum entered Autry's dorm room and forced himself upon her.

In a third interview, Soules said he had raped Autry and sprayed hairspray on her body, the detective said.

Soules said Goodrum was the one who set Autry on fire, police say.

Court documents show that the two men attended a fraternity party at the Pi Kappa Alpha house May 3, where friends say Autry, who had danced at a strip club, also spent time before the early-morning fire.

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