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Penalty Phase Continues in Nielsen Trial

Penalty Phase Continues in Nielsen Trial

Posted - Jan. 28, 2004 at 8:46 a.m.



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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Cody Lynn Nielsen's father suffered chest pains and was taken by ambulance to a hospital as the penalty phase of his son's murder trial was getting under way.

Jurors will decide whether Nielsen will be sentenced to death or life imprisonment of the slaying of 15-year-old Trisha Autry of Hyrum.

Shannon Demler, Cody Nielsen's attorney, told Nielsen of his father's condition when bailiffs brought him into the courtroom minutes later. Nielsen was then taken from the courtroom, but brought back several minutes later. He put his head down on the table and began crying.

"He's (Cody) really broken down about that," Demler said.

Lynn Nielsen was taken to Logan Regional Hospital, where he was in the intensive care unit. His condition was unknown, Demler said.

Trisha's Autry's mother, JoAnn, and her brother, Aram, testified Tuesday afternoon. The mother told how her daughter loved playing in the rain, writing poetry and short stories and singing.

"Trisha dreamed of attending the Julliard School of Music and sharing her musical talents and abilities with the world," she said. "But her song was cut off in mid-melody."

The girl had been missing for nearly a year before pieces of her remains were unearthed in May 2001 at the Predator Research Laboratory in Millville, where Nielsen had worked at the time of the slaying.

JoAnn Autry told how horrible it had been not knowing what had become of her daughter.

"Any parent in this room who has experienced a child wandering off at a park, a supermarket, a clothing store for even a few moments has experienced what our family went through day and night for 344 days while Mr. Nielsen kept his deed silent," she said. "Every morning for a year I awoke between 4 and 4:30 a.m. subconsciously hoping I could rewrite history."

JoAnn Autry ended by telling the jury how much her daughter wanted to change the world.

"She was a confident, opinionated and powerful young woman," JoAnn said. "She didn't take guff off anyone. She spoke out passionately on crimes against women. She didn't frighten easily, but she was afraid of this man for good reason ... Trisha wanted to make a difference in the world. We hope that you will help her realize that goal by holding her murderer accountable for her horrendous death and destruction."

Aram Autry testified, "The worst day of my life is the day my mom called and told me the mandible bone that had been found at the Predator Research Laboratory was my sister's. My heart breaks when I think of what possibly happened to her and what happened to her at the end of her life."

Aram asked the jury to guarantee that Nielsen won't be able to hurt another girl as he did Trisha.

To establish that Nielsen had been a sexual serial predator, prosecutors called four women, who testified Nielsen raped them or attempted to rape them on different occasions between 1990 and 1996.

Special prosecutor Scott Wyatt asked the jury to consider sentencing Nielsen to death instead of life in prison without parole or life in prison with the possibility of parole.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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