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  #1  
Old 09-19-2003, 04:37 PM
White_Chocolate White_Chocolate is offline
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This lawsuit is ridiculous

Relatives of slain student sue WKU
Suit says negligence led to rape, murder in dormitory room
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By MARK PITSCH
mpitsch@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal

Melissa "Katie" Autry was attacked in her dormitory room at Western Kentucky University on May 4.
Relatives of a Western Kentucky University freshman who was set on fire in her dormitory room filed a lawsuit yesterday against the school and others, alleging negligence in her death.

Virginia White, the aunt of Melissa "Katie" Autry, also criticized WKU President Gary Ransdell for comments he made after Autry's death.

"Western's administration speaks of responsibility," White said in an interview. "What an example they are setting for our young adults by blaming the victim. They're saying if you get raped, robbed, et cetera, it's your fault. ... They need to take responsibility."

Ransdell and WKU General Counsel Deborah Wilkins declined to be interviewed. But the university issued a statement that said the safety of its students, faculty, staff and visitors is "of paramount importance."

"While the university regrets the terrible crime that was perpetrated against Ms. Autry, it is confident that the facts will show neither its staff nor its policies played a role in this tragic event," the statement said. "... It is the position of the university that the person or persons involved in this crime are solely responsible for Ms. Autry's death."

The university said it will "vigorously defend" itself against the lawsuit.

Autry died May 7, three days after suffering third- and fourth-degree burns in her Hugh Poland Hall dorm room. Two men have been charged with her murder.

The lawsuit, filed in Warren Circuit Court by White and Donnie Autry, Katie Autry's mother, asks for unspecified monetary damages for medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, funeral costs, punitive damages and attorney's fees.

AUTRY LAWSUIT
Plaintiffs: Melissa "Katie" Autry's mother, Donnie Autry, and aunt, Virginia White
Defendants: Western Kentucky University; WKU Student Life Foundation; five current or former WKU employees; Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and its WKU chapter

Allegations: Negligence on the part of WKU, the student life foundation, and the five employees for failing to enforce and follow security procedures.

Negligence on the part of the national fraternity and its WKU chapter for failing to properly supervise and provide security at a party.

In addition to WKU, the lawsuit names as defendants the WKU Student Life Foundation, which owns the university's dorms; the WKU chapter of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and its headquarters in Memphis, Tenn.; and five school employees the suit alleges were working in Hugh Poland Hall on the night Autry was fatally burned.

The employees are Sandra Hess, Poland Hall director in 2002-03; Aubrey Livingston, the assistant hall director in 2002-03; and Lynne Allison Todd, Alex Kuehne and Aja Hendrix.

The lawyer for White and Autry, Ben Crocker of Bowling Green, said Todd was the desk clerk at Poland Hall on the night of the attack and Kuehne and Hendrix were the resident assistants in charge that night.

John David Cole, a Bowling Green lawyer who is chairman of the student life foundation, said the lawsuit is "without merit" regarding allegations against the foundation.

HE SAID THE foundation is responsible for making sure the dorm meets structural health and safety codes and that it did at the time of the attack. He noted that the sprinkler system in Autry's dorm room went off after she was set on fire.

Cole also said he didn't believe WKU or its employees were liable for Autry's death.

Crocker said the foundation is responsible because it is the owner of the dorm. In 2000, WKU transferred ownership of the building and 16 other dormitories to the nonprofit foundation to help finance renovations of the school's dorms. Housing and residence life employees who run the dorms are still university employees.

Justin Perkins, president of the WKU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha, said he could not comment on the suit. Eric Wulf, executive director of the national PKA organization, said Autry's murder was a "horrible crime." Wulf said the fraternity was "somewhat surprised" at being named a defendant but declined further comment because it hadn't received an official copy of the lawsuit.

Hess, Livingston, Todd, Kuehne and Hendrix didn't return telephone calls seeking comment.

White and Autry brought the suit as administrators of Autry's estate.

"It's not at all about the money," White said of the lawsuit. "It's about the whole world needs to know about this girl and Western needs to take responsibility and make sure it doesn't happen again."

She said suing for money is "probably the only way to get their attention."

AUTRY, WHO was a part-time student at WKU during the spring 2003 semester, had gone to a party at the PKA fraternity house adjacent to campus a few hours before she was attacked, police said.

Ryan Payne of Scottsville, who was then a PKA pledge, gave Autry a ride to her dorm early May 4, Sgt. Mike Dowell of the WKU police testified at a Warren District Court hearing in May. Dowell said another person at the party, Stephen L. Soules, 20, of Scottsville, was in the car on that trip and was taken to a nearby dorm, Bemis Lawrence Hall.

Dowell said at the hearing that five days after Autry's death Soules admitted raping and sodomizing Autry and dousing her with hairspray. Soules told police that Lucas B. Goodrum, 21, of Scottsville, also raped and sodomized Autry and set her on fire, according to Dowell.

Soules and Goodrum were each charged with murder and first-degree rape, sodomy, and arson and/or complicity to commit those crimes. Soules was also charged with first-degree robbery.

They have pleaded innocent. A pre-trial conference in the case has been scheduled for Monday.

In response to Autry's murder, a WKU task force made 18 recommendations to improve campus safety, including requiring freshmen to live in same-sex dorms and installing digital surveillance cameras at dorm entrances and exits. Ransdell said in July, when the recommendations were announced, that each would be implemented, although funding is not available to put all of them in place immediately.

RANSDELL SAID at the time that he would emphasize with students this year "individual responsibility and prudence in your personal activities." He also said students should remove themselves from "high-risk" situations and not bring "the risk element of what can be a dangerous society into your campus community."

White criticized Ransdell for what she called his "disrespectful" remarks. "It's always easier to blame someone who isn't here to defend themselves," she said.

White acknowledged that another student told her Autry had been drinking on the night of the party, but she said Autry had made a responsible decision by going back to her room.

"Western's administration says recognize when you're in a dangerous situation and remove yourself from it. How much more could Katie have removed herself?" White said. "She was in her dorm room, the place she considered home. She should've been protected."

The lawsuit contends the university, the foundation and the five university employees failed to follow proper rules and procedures governing dorms, failed to provide adequate security and failed to "exercise ordinary care" for Autry.

It said those failures led to Autry's death.

The lawsuit doesn't specify what procedures weren't followed, but Crocker alleged that Poland Hall was unlocked in violation of WKU policies and that Autry's attackers didn't show identification to the desk clerk and weren't escorted to her room by a resident.

But WKU, in its statement, cited media reports that suggested Autry's attackers got into the dorm and her room "with her consent." Bob Edwards, assistant vice president for university relations, cited reports of a comment by Soules' lawyer, Zachary Kafoglis, that Autry invited Soules to her room.

The lawsuit accuses the fraternity chapter of negligence, saying it didn't provide adequate security or care for its guests at the party Autry attended.

-----------------------------------# # #---------------------------------
This is ridiculous on the party of the family. This girl was sober enough to make the decision to get a designated driver to take her home. However, she had to call them to tell them what room she was in and she had to go downstairs to let them in.
It's sad that she died and I think her attackers should pay for what they did to her. . .but for her aunt to blame the school(yes, in part they should have had updated equipment but they did have policies to check people in), the front desk clerks(they only did their job, they could have intervened but they didn't know that the girl didn't know the 2 strangers she went downstairs to get and let into her room), the people who own the dorms(because the facilities should have been secure but that isn't their fault), the WKU president because he told the students to 'remove themselves from bad situations', and PIKEs for having the party that she got drunk at(they got her home safely. . .after that, she was on her own).


why is it that people want to blame everyone for doing soemthing that they had nothing to do with?
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  #2  
Old 09-19-2003, 05:25 PM
Peaches-n-Cream Peaches-n-Cream is offline
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I don't know if this lawsuit is ridiculous or not. A young woman is dead after being raped, sodomized, and set on fire. That is so horrible. What kind of monsters behave that way?!
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  #3  
Old 09-19-2003, 05:36 PM
madmax madmax is offline
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It might be ridiculous. The mother and aunt named everybody to the lawsuit except the monsters that actually committed the crime. I think they are probably just gold diggers.

Based on the limited info provided in the story I don't see how the school, employees, or the fraternity are responsible.

If the girl let the guys into her room then she was stupid.
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Old 09-19-2003, 05:38 PM
White_Chocolate White_Chocolate is offline
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But it wasn't their fault
She was in her dorm room
Either she called the guys to come up
Or she walked over to get them

She was 18 yrs old making her own decisions
Who are they to tell her no?


At the same time, wouldn't you get mad if your university said that no guy that you wanted over(friend, boyfriend, uncle, grandpa) could enter the building with you?

Everyone starts screaming they have the right to do this and that. . .until someone gets hurt or ends up dead. . .then, it's everyone else's fault for not protecting them from doing what they want to do.
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  #5  
Old 09-19-2003, 05:42 PM
ilovemyglo ilovemyglo is offline
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actually there is WAY more to the story,

She was in the state's custody because her family wasn't able to take care of her. She had been living with a foster family for 10 years - NOT HER MOM and NOT HER AUNT!!! They are filing a lawsuit for money, for the death of a girl they LEGALLY GAVE UP!!! Her mother gave up her rights by putting her in foster care, and if her aunt loved her so much why didn't she let her come stay with her?

Golddiggers is the nicest word for those women.
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Last edited by ilovemyglo; 09-22-2003 at 01:09 PM.
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  #6  
Old 09-19-2003, 06:09 PM
greeklawgirl greeklawgirl is offline
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I agree with Cream. And if what Sarah says is true, then the story is all the more awful. It sounds as if the poor girl lived a difficult life, and died a horrible death. Its tragic. I hope that she can at least rest in peace. Poor, poor child.
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Old 09-19-2003, 06:18 PM
Munchkin03 Munchkin03 is offline
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Right. When I read the story, I was like, "mother? This is the first time I've heard about her mother!" I assumed her mother was dead, because the only person I've heard about from her family was her grandmother (whom, you notice, isn't on the suit). This reminds me of how Dennehy's (basketball player from Baylor) father just popped out of nowhere, wanting "punitive damages" resulting from his son--whom he had little if any part in raising--being killed. The only "punitive damages" these clowns should receive is the ones for being neglectful parents until it's too late.

I'm also seeing red because the fact that residential directors' names are listed on the suit, but that's another post entirely.

It's a terrible story, and I hope the responsible parties--ie, the murders/rapists are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It's just wrong to pull in innocent parties out of grief.
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Old 09-19-2003, 06:24 PM
Eclipse Eclipse is offline
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Re: This lawsuit is ridiculous

Quote:
Originally posted by White_Chocolate

The lawsuit doesn't specify what procedures weren't followed, but Crocker alleged that Poland Hall was unlocked in violation of WKU policies and that Autry's attackers didn't show identification to the desk clerk and weren't escorted to her room by a resident.

But WKU, in its statement, cited media reports that suggested Autry's attackers got into the dorm and her room "with her consent." Bob Edwards, assistant vice president for university relations, cited reports of a comment by Soules' lawyer, Zachary Kafoglis, that Autry invited Soules to her room.

Here's, based on the article, the point of the lawsuit. Was the dorm unlocked? Did the desk clerk let them in without an escort?
Which one, the victim or the rapist is the most sympathatic? Sorry, while I do think there are some people named who MAY not be liable, the lawsuit does not seem that silly to me.
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Old 09-19-2003, 06:45 PM
ilovemyglo ilovemyglo is offline
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As a former student of Western, I know the doors are never unlocked... we locked them at 10 or 12 (I can't remember cause it was 5 years ago!) when I was a night clerk. If you didn't have a key and knocked we had to go open the door and get verification of your name and room number with an ID you had to have present, if you didn't have an ID we had to have the RA on duty come down and take you to your room to get it.

So I doubt that the doors were locked.
As for letting them up- the dorm that she lived in was a co-ed dorm so it is possible the managed their way into the building, but I doubt it. WKU went to a system where you had to show your student ID to get in to the building and each dorm was color coded seperately with a sticker.
The 2 guys accused of this horrendous crime were never Western Students, either, they were just two guys. She would have had to come down and signed them in.... after hours I have never seen this policy not followed. There are strict cohabitation rules for the dorms, so you have to check people in. If they are checked in for more than 12 hours then it is a violation of the rules and agreements and the person that signed them in has to meet with the director of the dorm (or asst. director) and they get a warning. Until they meet they have NO VISITATION.

So, anyway, as for what happened to the girl- it is worse than reported. I had friends on the EMS unit that came to the dorm to extinguish the fire. The details are so gross and bad that they could barely talk about it.

I feel for her friends and her foster family the most. They loved Katie and were by her side all throughout the entire ordeal. It happened on a Saturday night, and she didn't die until Wednesday.

As for the Pikes involvement, they are RIGHT NEXT DOOR, and SHARE A YARD with the AGR's. If they didn't have a security guard then AGR would have called them as a violation of IFC policy. They get points deducted and aren't allowed to have parties or be involved in certain activities depending on how many points they have.

So all in all, I doubt their case is legit and the family is money hungry because they haven't had anything to do with her in 2 years. She was even a stripper for a short time to get money... I mean what parent or aunt or whatever would let their daughter/niece strip instead of helping them out- if they loved them and cherished them as much as these two claim to?
That is MY OPINION though.
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Old 09-19-2003, 07:09 PM
Tom Earp Tom Earp is offline
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Thumbs up

Thank you Sara. Once again, this just proves one thing! Lets sue every son of a bitch that we can to get some $$$$$$$.

It is sad that the feelings for this young lady were over powered by money!

Thank You ACLU, let us have co-ed dorms with the doors open all damn night! DA! Someone can in a co-ed dorm can come in to a room and do what ever!

Dont get me going there!

Damn, I wish I was a Judge!

Less Prision Population! Save money! OOPS, cost more for a murderer to stay on death row than the average dumb ass.
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  #11  
Old 09-19-2003, 09:28 PM
Lady Pi Phi Lady Pi Phi is offline
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Tom, don't go ragging on co-ed dorms. They are not the problem. I live in a co-ed building my first 2 years that housed 2000 students.
We had security measures, that are alot more lax than what I am getting reading about from Ilovemyglo.
Nothing this bad ever happened.
There were a few female students that were sexually assulted, but not by students. It was by local men that broke in. It has nothing to do with co-ed dorms.
Sometimes, no metter was prevention methods one takes, bad things can still happen.
This is a frivolous lawsuit IMO. No amount of money can ever replace a loved one or will ever make you feel better. (well it seems that it can in this case)
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Old 09-19-2003, 09:38 PM
KillarneyRose KillarneyRose is offline
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I did a search and found some stories about this incident. Those animals covered the ceiling sprinklers in her room with towels, and sprayed hairspray (very flammable) on her vaginal area and breasts then caught her on fire. That poor, poor little girl What an awful way to suffer and die.
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Old 09-19-2003, 09:58 PM
Rio_Kohitsuji Rio_Kohitsuji is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by KillarneyRose
I did a search and found some stories about this incident. Those animals covered the ceiling sprinklers in her room with towels, and sprayed hairspray (very flammable) on her vaginal area and breasts then caught her on fire. That poor, poor little girl What an awful way to suffer and die.
What kind of sick f*cks would do that???

I believe an eye for an eye on this one.
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Old 09-20-2003, 12:35 AM
sigmagrrl sigmagrrl is offline
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I don't think this is a frivolous lawsuit, but I am not quite sure whether or not PiKA should be held accountable or not...What a horrible, malicious, inhuman act....I hadn't heard of this story before today....I don't pray often, but I will pray for her soul...It sounds as if she had had a hard life and she deserved better than this...
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Old 09-20-2003, 11:45 AM
Munchkin03 Munchkin03 is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Earp

Thank You ACLU, let us have co-ed dorms with the doors open all damn night! DA! Someone can in a co-ed dorm can come in to a room and do what ever!

Yeah, co-ed dorms are the signal that our society is going to hell in a handbasket.

Like Lady Pi Phi, I lived in co-ed dorms for the entire time I was an undergrad. We didn't have anyone to check in residents at the dorm door--we just had to swipe in at the door and we were fine. Same for our guests. The RAs had nothing to do with letting in students.

Nothing of this sort happened in my four years. This was an isolated incident at the hands of two savage, insane "men". Occasionally, there was a laptop theft or two, but that was more based on the carelessness of students leaving their doors open than any major security breach on the part of the University.

Besides, co-ed dorms mainly came about as a result of extreme gender inbalances in some universities. They couldn't justify keeping a men's-only dorm 45% full, where the women's housing was bursting at the seams. Hence, co-ed dorms. The social changes of the 60s and 70s had something to do with it as well, but in many places, sheer numbers dictated the way things had to be--not the ACLU or some such organization.

So, some lawsuit is in order--against the perpetrators, not every single party listed.
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