Sentencing in Hyrum Murder Case Postponed

Sentencing in Hyrum Murder Case Postponed

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Sentencing of Cody Lynn Nielsen for the slaying of a 15-year-old Hyrum girl has been postponed while Nielsen's bid to withdraw his guilty plea is hashed out.

The sentencing was to have been Tuesday, but was postponed while the court deals with a dispute over Nielsen's plea.

Nielsen last week filed a motion with Judge Clint S. Judkins to withdraw the plea. Judkins declined to consider the motion unless it was filed by Nielsen's attorneys, who opposed it, feeling it would not be in their client's best interest.

On Monday, Judkins agreed to appoint a special attorney to investigate whether there is a legal basis for Nielsen to withdraw his plea.

"It (appointing additional counsel) is the only fair thing to do for the defendant and the court system," Shannon Demler, Nielsen's attorney, said.

Nielsen said he was forced into entering the plea by his attorneys. The plea enabled him to escape a possible death sentence, if he were convicted, but meant he faced a life sentence, which could be either with or without the possibility of parole.

Nielsen was charged in the death of Trisha Autry, who disappeared from her home in Hyrum on June 24, 2000. Her jawbone, bra and shoes were unearthed May 15 at a Millville coyote research facility where Nielsen had been a maintenance worker. Utah Medical Examiner Todd Grey said there were many hundreds of fragments of what appeared to be burned bones, most so small he could not tell which body part they belonged to.

Nielsen had denied any involvement in the girl's disappearance.

When he pleaded guilty, he refused to answer questions about whether he killed Autry.

Nielsen is serving a sentence of up to five years in prison for unlawful sexual activity with a minor, and has other previous convictions.

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

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