Nielsen Allowed to Withdraw Guilty Plea to Murder

Nielsen Allowed to Withdraw Guilty Plea to Murder

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Cody Lynn Nielsen has been allowed to withdraw his plea of guilty to capital homicide in the slaying of 15-year-old Trisha Autry.

First District Court Judge Clint S. Judkins said Monday that he was granting Nielsen's request because the Cache County Attorney's Office did not oppose it.

The county attorney, in fact, agreed to allowing Nielsen to withdraw the plea.

Nielsen, 30, pleaded guilty Jan. 16 to killing the Hyrum girl. Under the plea agreement, charges of obstructing justice and desecrating a body were dismissed, and prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The dismissed charges have been reinstated and Nielsen once again could face a potential death penalty.

Since January, Nielsen had written several letters to the court alleging that he was coerced by his attorneys, David Perry and Shannon Demler, into accepting the agreement.

According to the motion to withdraw, filed by conflict counselor Deirdre Gorman, Nielsen did not enter into the agreement knowingly and voluntarily.

The motion also argued that Nielsen was not clearly advised of the sentencing structure described in the agreement and that the factual basis for entering into the plea was inadequate.

Authorities believe Autry was beaten to death on June 24, 2000, and her body was dismembered.

Autry was 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.

The county attorney's office said it will file a motion by Friday requesting that videotaped conversations of Nielsen allegedly describing Autry's death to authorities be admissible during trial.

Authorities conducted this jail interview days after Nielsen entered his guilty plea.

Judkins ruled earlier that the videotapes were inadmissible during the sentencing phase of the case.

An appeal asking the Utah Supreme Court to overturn Judkins' earlier ruling was filed last month by the county attorney's office.

Nielsen's trial could begin as early as the end of July depending on the outcome of the appeal.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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