Thursday, October 1, 2009
One dead, brother charged after standoff at Autry home
By ALYSSA SCHNUGG
A man arrested Friday after allegedly shooting and killing his brother and holding two others hostage has been charged with capital murder.
Bilethon Autry, 24, was taken into custody after a three-hour standoff with police at 3887 Majestic Oaks in the upscale Grand Oaks subdivision in Oxford.
While he could have been charged with a slew of charges, Oxford Police Chief Mike Martin said he was only being charged with the murder at this time.
“That’s about the worst charge there is,” he said.
If convicted, Autry could face the death penalty.
Oxford police officers responded to Majestic Oaks after receiving a 911 call about a man with a gun in a yard. After officers arrived, the suspect, later identified as Autry, went back into the home. Several gunshots were heard a short time later. Autry briefly went into the garage where he started firing at officers. The shots missed their targets and Autry went back into the house.
A housekeeper escaped from Autry and ran out of the house. She told officers Autry’s brother, Charlie Ray Hodges, 50, had been shot twice and she believed he was dead. Autry’s father, Billy Ray Autry, formerly of Holly Springs, was still in the house unharmed.
For two hours, Special Weapons and Tactics officers from OPD and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, along with negotiators, unsuccessfully attempted to contact Autry and the father via cell phone and megaphone.
“Mr. Autry, we need you to put your weapon down and come out with your hands up,” said an Oxford police officer. “I know you’re frightened. Please answer your cell phone. We’re not leaving. We’re not going anywhere.”
Eventually, the SWAT unit went into the house through the garage where they found Autry laying on a couch. He was escorted out of the house by officers and placed into a patrol car while being covered with a blanket to shield him from news helicopters flying overhead.
Inside, Autry’s brother was found shot to death. The father was found safe, hiding in the attic. No officers had been injured.
Autry was taken to the detention center where he is being held without bond pending a hearing.
During the standoff, the main entrance into Grand Oaks was blocked off and the local North Mississippi Regional Center campus was put on lockdown. The Lafayette County schools were also put on partial lockdown. Parents were allowed to pick up their children, but Lafayette County deputies were on scene.
Several agencies assisted during the standoff to help secure the scene or help answer calls while city officers were busy at the hostage scene, Martin said. The other agencies included law enforcement officers from the University Police Department, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, FBI, Mississippi Game and Fish, U.S. Marshals and Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, along with Lafayette County volunteer firefighters.
“Agencies from all over north Mississippi were calling and offering assistance if we needed it,” Martin said.
Martin said Friday’s hostage situation was the first time the SWAT unit had responded to a situation like that “in quite some time.”
“This isn’t something that happens every day in Oxford,” Martin said. “But it does happen on occasion ... I am pleased at how our agencies were able to bring this to a close without any of our officers being hurt. I’m glad the father (and housekeeper) were able to get out of the house without injury ... I’m saddened by the loss of life of the brother.”
Martin said the family was not known to him personally, but that one of his officers said he had responded to the home recently for a domestic situation. Autry had recently been released from a mental hospital for psychiatric problems, Martin said.
A records search at the Lafayette County Circuit Court showed no past felony criminal charges against Autry.
His father, Billy Ray Autry, is the co-owner of the Hodges-Serenity Funeral Home and Limousine Service in Oxford and also owns three other Serenity Funeral Homes in Holly Springs, New Albany and Pontotoc. Bilethon Autry drove a limo for his father’s business.
The former Hodges Funeral Home and Serenity Funeral Home in Oxford merged about a year ago.
“As far as I knew, they were kind of a private family, coming to the office and going home,” said Lavera Hodges, co-owner of Hodges-Serenity.
(Oxford Eagle staff writer Lucy Schultze contributed to this report.)
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