College Student's Death in Fire Probed As Murder

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) -- The death of a Western Kentucky University freshman whose burned and stabbed body was found in her locked dorm room was being investigated as a murder, a school official said Friday.

Investigators hoped that an autopsy of Katie Autry conducted Thursday could confirm their suspicion about what started the fire that gave her the fatal burns, University Police Chief Robert Deane said Thursday night. They believe the blaze was set deliberately.

Investigators have otherwise said little about potential suspects or evidence since Autry, 18, was found before dawn Sunday. Besides third-degree burns, she also had abrasions and puncture wounds on her neck and face, university officials said. She died Wednesday at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital.

Authorities initially considered whether the wounds and the fire was a suicide attempt but have since ruled that out.

``This is a murder investigation right now,'' said university spokesman Bob Skipper.

The Tennessee medical examiner's office said it would not release a preliminary autopsy report until tests for tissue samples and bloodstream chemicals were complete.

More than 100 students on the campus of 16,000 have been questioned, the police chief said.

``A lot of people _ unknowingly _ have information that will help us,'' Deane said. ``It's just a matter of catching people, collecting it and trying to contact them before they leave school for the semester.''

The pace of the investigation has frustrated some family members.

``This makes the fifth day and the police are no closer to finding out who done this,'' Autry's aunt, Virginia White, told The Courier-Journal of Louisville for Friday's editions. Skipper said Friday that Deane updates the family at least twice a day.

Among the students questioned were her roommate, who was not home at the time of the fire, and members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, where friends said Autry had attended a party hours before the fire.

Autry was a cheerleader for four years at Hancock County High School. The school's principal _ Robert Kerrick _ called Autry ``a very kind child.''

``That's the thing that's affecting us the most, is that we don't understand how anyone could have treated this young lady this way,'' Kerrick said.