Melissa Katie Autry was born on May 10, 1984. She grew up in a foster home in Pellville, KY. Her mother had a psychological disorder and walked away from Katie for neglecting basic care.
Life with foster parents was not easy. They were staunch Christians and imposed a series of moral customs on him. Katie was dutiful and never caused trouble until she entered college.
The best student in the class
The girl got good grades in high school, became a cheerleader and was always involved in extracurricular activities. A shy and at the same time sweet teenager, Katie was a collector of several school titles, as Student of the Month, State Academic and winner of the Perfect Presence award.
Outgoing and empowered
When Katie Autry entered college, her behavior changed. At Western Kentucky University, she flirted with several boys and started drinking heavily to impress his friends.
She seemed like an outgoing and empowered girl. With the help of alcohol, she began to display an alter ego so bold and flirtatious that it earned her a reputation among her dormmates: “the second floor bitch.”
Katie decided to emancipate herself due to pressure from her Catholic family over her behavior. As a result, she lost her student credit and had to find several part-time jobs to pay for her studies, one of them as an exotic dancer in a strip club.
The last party
May 3, 2003, it was more of a frat party, Katie had come with some friends and was already drunk. Before leaving the dorm, she took a potent mixture of alcohol and soda.
At the party she continued drinking and it didn’t take long to lose control and dance provocatively with random men. As she walked around the place, she started harassing some guys, and that’s how she met Luke Goodrum.
She crossed to him and ran her hand over his abdomen. Finally, Katie’s roommate realized that she needed to send her drunk friend home. The friend didn’t want to leave, so she arranged a ride back to the dorm for Katie. It turns out that the person she arranged to take her to was the same person who took Luke and Stephen Soules to the Scottsville party.
Stephen Soules, liar and cheater
He was a young black man from Scottsville. Some described him as sweet and polite. Others accused him of being a liar and a cheat.
Months before the party, Stephen told Luke’s girlfriend that she was being cheated on. Furious, Luke threatened Stephen and used racist words.
The night of Katie’s murder, twenty-year-old Stephen Soules called Luke and asked for some pot. To convince him to bring the drug, Stephen said he would attend a frat party at Western Kentucky University. Luke liked the idea and accepted the invitation.
What no one knew was that that night Luke had beaten his girlfriend in a fit of jealousy, afraid of being found by the police, he thought it best to leave Scottsville. Stephen gave him the perfect opportunity.
When he arrived at the party, Stephen was dizzy and vomiting. Luke and the others left him passed out in the back seat of the car they were in and got inside.
“Someone just walked into my room!”
Later that night, Katie’s roommate called her to see if she had arrived safely. The phone call was upsetting.
Katie said, “Someone just walked into my room.” When her friend asked who the person was, she said she didn’t know. That was the last time she spoke to Katie.
Body on fire
At 4:08 am on May 4, 2003, while answering a fire call, Katie’s body was found in her dorm. The scene was horrible, the victim had bruises on her face and puncture wounds on her neck. She was strangled with a T-shirt, sprayed with hairspray and then set on fire.
The smoke alarm was ripped from the ceiling. Antibacterial lotion was discovered in Katie’s vagina. Combined with the fact that she had been sprayed with hairspray in her genital area before being set on fire, it started to look like whoever killed her was trying to cover up a sexual assault.
The initial investigation revealed that Katie was last seen in the company of two young men in a car leaving the party, in which were the driver and Stephen Soules, who was passed out in the backseat. Both were taken in for questioning, but the driver was quickly ruled out as a suspect.
Strangely, in this case in point, the investigation of Katie Autry’s murder was left to the campus police. In situations like this, it is normal for the state police to take charge, given the magnitude of what happened.
Luke has an alibi
After the party, Luke went to his father’s house, where he received a harsh lecture before going to bed. Stephen, on the other hand, became increasingly suspect, all the more so because of his contradictions in the testimony. Sometimes he admitted to having been in the victim’s room, sometimes he swore he never entered the dorm.
Stephen Soules began naming Luke as the culprit, and the police bought into this story, despite Luke’s solid alibi, he was arrested.
Public opinion on campus has presented the narrative that women and people of color are largely innocent of society’s ills and that wealthy white men are solely responsible for all that is wrong with the world.
The prosecution bought into this idea and went out of their way to blame Luke, even with evidence to the contrary.
No physical evidence has been found to link Luke Goodrum to Katie Autry’s murder, at the same time, DNA results from a vaginal swab taken from Katie’s body came back positive for Stephen Soules.
Stephen Soules was found guilty. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
What probably happened that night?
Both Katie and Stephen were drunk when they were thrown together in the back seat of the car. According to Stephen’s account, they played and kissed during the short trip to the victim’s dorm.
Once in the dorm, Stephen followed Katie up to her room, perhaps at her invitation. What happened inside isn’t entirely clear, but Katie may not have consented to sex.
Judging by her answer to her roommate when she called, Katie may have recovered from her alcoholic state enough to realize she was in bed with a stranger, at which point she may have tried to resist.
Drunk, stoned, and frustrated by being repulsed, Stephen may have tried to force her. They fought. He strangled her, then hit and stabbed her. And then, realizing what he had done, he tried to destroy the evidence by setting his body on fire.