Real Name: Trisha Ann Autry
Location: Hyrum, Utah
Date: June 24, 2000
Date of Birth: December 12, 1984
Weight: 170 pounds
Marital Status: N/A
Characteristics: Caucasian female. Bright red hair.
Details: In the early morning hours of June 24, 2000, fifteen-year-old Trisha Ann Autry vanished from her home in Hyrum, Utah. Her mother Joann discovered that she was missing. She and her other daughters searched the neighborhood, to no avail. Sadly, Trisha's adolescence had not been easy. She was often ostracized and made fun of by the other kids at school. She also didn't have any close friends to talk with. As a result, police suspected that she may have run away. However, she had left all of her belongings behind. Her family suspected that she may have planned to meet someone from the Internet.
Prior to her disappearance, Trisha wrote several fantasy stories. She started writing one story about two weeks before she disappeared. According to her family, on some occasions, she would stay up all night writing. She had stayed up late the night she vanished, working on the computer in the family room. Her sister Breanne last saw her typing at 2:30AM, and at 6AM the next morning she was gone.
When Joann looked at the computer, she found that Trisha's story was not there. She was apparently doing something else throughout the night. Police focused on her computer and discovered that she had three separate e-mail accounts. She also spent large amounts of time in chat rooms. There was also evidence that Trisha had deleted large amounts of e-mails and other files at 3AM on the morning she vanished. A computer expert believes that someone taught her how to delete these files.
On several occasions, neighbors noticed suspicious activity near the Autry home. Two weeks before Trisha vanished, a neighbor had seen her get out of a red car. The neighbor felt that the way she left the car and walked back home was suspicious, as if she did not want to be seen. According to another neighbor, the red car appeared again at 4AM on the morning of her disappearance. The driver, a young man, got out of the car and walked around. He appeared to be nervous. A few minutes later, a girl matching Trisha's description met the man and got into the car.
On the day Trisha vanished, just two hours after she was seen getting into the red car, she was seen by a clerk at the Welcome Mart a few miles from the Autry home. The clerk said Trisha had been looking out the window as if she was waiting for someone. The clerk asked if she was all right; she replied that she was fine. She left twenty minutes later without buying anything. The clerk knew Trisha from the neighborhood and was certain that the girl was her.
There were several sightings of Trisha throughout Utah in the months following her disappearance, giving hope for her family and police that she is still alive. One man believed that he saw her at a grocery store. He saw her enter with an older woman standing closely behind her. The woman appeared to be controlling her. A man was also with them; he matched the description of the man that picked up Trisha in front of her home. The witness believed that the girl was being abused and drugged.
Trisha's family and the police are hoping that she is still alive and will be found.
Suspects: None known; police suspect that the driver of the red, economy-type car is responsible for Trisha's disappearance. The man, who was younger and white, has never been identified. He may be accompanied by an older white female.
Extra Notes: This case originally ran on the July 12, 2001 episode. Trisha's murder was also documented on On the Case with Paula Zahn.
Tricia's family founded the Trisha Ann Autry Foundation to support families also affected by online predators.
Results: Solved. Six months after Trisha's disappearance, police began to investigate twenty-eight-year-old Cody Lynn Nielsen. Nielsen was a maintenance man at the Predator Research Facility near Millville, Utah, eight miles from Hyrum. Shortly after Trisha's disappearance, he was seen using a backhoe on facility property to dig deep trenches and then re-fill them for no apparent reason. Cadaver dogs were brought to the area where the trenches had been made. Several dogs "hit" on one specific area in the trenches. After digging for ten feet, authorities found a jawbone. In other trenches, more remains were found, along with clothing. Some of the clothing had been burned. In May of 2001, the remains and clothing were identified as Trisha's.
Soon after the remains were discovered, one of Trisha's friends came forward, claiming to having been raped by Nielsen one month before Trisha vanished. She claimed that he offered her a ride home from school, but instead to her to the Predator Research Facility and raped her. She also told police that Nielsen had given Trisha his pager number.
In June of 2001, he was charged with kidnapping and first degree murder. He was also charged with her friend's rape. He admitted to killing Trisha, but claimed that her death was an accident. He initially pleaded guilty, but later withdrew his plea. At trial, four women testified that he had raped them. Other witnesses testified that he had stalked Trisha prior to her disappearance. In January of 2004, Nielsen was convicted of Trisha's murder and given a life sentence without parole. His conviction was upheld in 2013.
Sadly, Trisha's parents have both since passed away; her father in 2001 and her mother in 2010.
- Trisha Autry on Unsolved Archive
- Trisha Autry Obituary
- Alleged rapist a suspect in Trisha Autry homicide too
- Autry's family tells jurors: 'Evil has a face'
- Man says girls' death was an accident
- Utah killer of 15-year-old girl wants new trial
- State Supreme Court affirms Cody Lynn Nielsen's murder conviction
- State v. Nielsen
- Investigation Discovery TV features Hyrum homicide in ‘On the Case with Paula Zahn’
- Patricia Autry at Find a Grave