MEMPHIS, Tennessee (AP) — A convicted felon who was released from prison after giving key testimony about the murder of Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo plans to change his plea to guilty of gun charges filed shortly after he was released, show court documents.
A federal judge has set a hearing on Nov. 22 for Jason Autry, who was arrested in December 2020 after attempting to run from the deputy in a rural field, where the deputy found a Marlin rifle.
Autry was subsequently charged with possession of a weapon and ammunition as a felon with previous violent crimes. Autry had pleaded innocent, but he has agreed to change his plea to guilty, according to an Oct. 4 court filing obtained by The Associated Press.
Autry had been sentenced to 15 years to life under the indictment in a third replacement indictment issued Sept. 29. It was not immediately clear on Thursday what punishment he must undergo under the plea agreement.
Autry’s attorney did not immediately answer a phone call and an email asking for comment on Thursday.
Autry has been convicted of 10 previous offenses in state and federal courts. He was a key witness in the 2017 trial of Zachary Adams, who was found guilty of murder, specifically aggravated kidnapping and rape of Bobo. Adams was sentenced to life plus 50 years.
Bobo was 20 when she disappeared from her family’s home in rural Parsons in April 2011, sparking a massive search through woods, fields and farms. Her remains were found more than three years later, in September 2014, in woods not far from her home, about 100 miles southwest of Nashville.
The search received national attention, with missing persons flyers featuring Bobo’s face distributed in many states and national news outlets focusing on the case.
According to Mark Gwyn, the director of the TBI during the search for Bobo, it was the most expensive and comprehensive case in the history of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at the time.
Autry received leniency and struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his calm, detailed, and clear testimony about Bobo’s kidnapping, rape, and murder. Autry said he was serving as a lookout when Adams fatally shot Bobo under a bridge by a river.
“It sounded like, boom, boom, boom, under that bridge. It was only one shot, but it echoed,” Autry testified. “Birds went everywhere, all under that bridge. Then just dead silence for just a second.”
Judge C. Creed McGinley of Hardin County sentenced Autry to eight years in state prison after Autry pleaded guilty to committing murder and facilitating particularly aggravated kidnapping in the Bobo case.
Judge McGinley praised Autry’s hour-long testimony.
“His testimony was one of the most credible, compelling testimonies I’ve ever heard in a courtroom,” the judge said during Autry’s September 2020 sentencing.
Autry was credited with time served and released from prison hours after sentencing. He had been off work for about two months until meeting a deputy sheriff in Benton County, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) west of Nashville.
The deputy saw Autry lying in a field and searched him for weapons, but found none, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by Ashley Robertson, a task force officer with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Deputy Sheriff Stacey Bostwick let Autry go after finding no arrest warrants. Bostwick then searched the area and found a rifle, the affidavit said.
The sheriff’s deputy returned to his car and followed Autry, who saw him walking into a driveway of a house in Holladay, the affidavit said. Autry ran to the house, but stopped when Bostwick asked him about the gun.
“Autry said he had tried to shoot a deer with the pistol and that he lay down in the field when he saw Deputy Bostwick’s patrol car,” the affidavit said.
Autry’s change of plea hearing will take place in Jackson, about 85 miles (136 kilometers) east of Memphis.
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