Suspect Pleads Guilty in Kentucky Rape-Murder, Arson

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- One of two men charged in a fatal dorm room attack on a Western Kentucky University freshman pleaded guilty Tuesday to murder and rape and will testify against his co-defendant.

In exchange for Stephen Soules' guilty pleas, he is to be sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, said Warren County Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Cohron. If Soules had been convicted, he could have faced the death penalty.

Soules agreed to testify against Lucas Goodrum, Cohron said. Goodrum has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail on charges of murder, rape, sodomy and arson. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Soules and Goodrum, both of Scottsville, were charged with killing and raping Katie Autry, a Western Kentucky University freshman from Pellville.

Autry, 18, was found in her smoldering dormitory room early in the morning of May 4. She had been beaten, stabbed and burned, and died three days later at a hospital.

``I understand why the prosecution has reached a plea bargain,'' Autry's aunt, Virginia White, told the Daily News of Bowling Green. Soules ``can't ever go out on the streets again. He can't ever hurt anyone else again.''

Cohron said he would have preferred that a jury decide Soules' fate, but ``this was the best we could do to ensure Mr. Goodrum's conviction.''

Renae Tuck, Soules' public defender, confirmed the plea deal. Goodrum's attorney, David Broderick, has said there is no physical evidence that would place his client in Autry's room. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.

Goodrum and Soules, both in their early 20s, were arrested less than a week after Autry's death.

Police have said the pair attended a fraternity party on campus hours before the fire and Autry attended the same party.

Cohron said Soules' sentencing date would be scheduled after Goodrum's trial, which he is asking a judge to reschedule for July instead of next January.

Goodrum's stepfather is a nephew of Cal Turner Jr., former chief executive officer of the Dollar General retail chain.