Judge dismisses motion; fraternity can still be sued by estate

Shawntaye Hopkins

The lawsuit against a Western fraternity will forge ahead in court.

Warren Circuit Judge Steve Wilson overruled a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the estate of Melissa “Katie” Autry against the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity on Jan. 29.

Terrell Miller, the attorney representing the Western Pike chapter, argued that Kentucky does not have jurisdiction over the Tennessee-based organization.

But Wilson disagreed.

“The judge found that there was sufficient contacts by the fraternity by the state of Kentucky,” Miller said.

Ben Crocker, the attorney representing the Autry estate, said he agrees with Wilson’s decision.

“We think they are a responsible party and should be involved in the lawsuit,” he said.

Crocker argued that Kentucky holds a local chapter of the fraternity and therefore has jurisdiction.

The Autry estate has also recently appealed the dismissal of the lawsuit against Western and the Student Life Foundation, Crocker said.

The lawsuit against Western and SLF was filed in September and dismissed in December by Warren Circuit Judge Tom Lewis.

The two entities claimed to have government immunity.

But Crocker continues to disagree.

“We feel very good about our position,” Crocker said. “We do feel that we’re correct on this and we feel good about our argument.”

Autry, a Pellville freshman, died May 7 at Vanderbilt Medical University. She suffered from third degree burns after being raped, sodomized and set on fire in her Poland Hall dorm room.

Lucas B. Goodrum and Stephen L. Soules, both of Scottsville, have been indicted on counts related to the murder. Both have pleaded not guilty and are in custody at the Warren County Regional Jail.

A hearing will be held on March 1 to set trial dates. Goodrum will be tried after Soules’ trial is complete.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]