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Alyssa Schnugg writes “A Father’s Lament”

Alyssa Shnugg at the Oxford Eagle has written a really remarkable story, the most humane (and thorough) about the tragedy that befell the Autry family last Friday in the hostage standoff in Oxford.  Also, letting everyone tell their parts in it– a police officer who had dealt with Bilethon Autry, the chancery clerk, etc.– she points to real problems in the treatment of the mentally ill.

I’m going to quote the beginning and then link to the OE archives for the rest of the story.

When Bilethon Autry shot and killed his brother, Charlie Ray Hodges, on Friday afternoon, some could say their father, Billy Ray Autry, lost two sons that day.

But through tears, Billy Ray told The EAGLE how he really lost Bilethon a long time ago.

“Bilethon was already locked up,” Autry said Tuesday while sitting in a newly rented apartment at the Links. “He’s been gone. He’s just been locked up on the inside.”

At about 1 p.m. Friday, in his opulent Grand Oaks home, Autry was hiding — curled up in the back of a closet behind his wife’s clothes — when he heard the shots that took his oldest son’s life. He heard the footsteps as his youngest son searched the home looking for him — most likely his next victim.

“If he would have found me, I wouldn’t be here,” Autry said. “I’d be like Charlie Ray.”

He heard the police call out to Bilethon, telling him to give up and put the gun down. Eventually, he heard a police officer call his name, telling him it was safe to come out of hiding.

Autry moved his wife and daughter into the Links apartment on Monday.

“I can’t go back there (Grand Oaks) just now,” he said quietly.

Adoring son

Billy Ray Autry grew up in Pontotoc. He began working at a young age, mowing lawns and earning as little as 25 cents an hour picking cotton and delivering milk for Avent’s Dairy at 5 a.m. before going to school. He graduated from high school in 1960. While a teen still in school, he fathered his son, Charlie Ray.

He attended Auburn University and the University of Mississippi where he became a teacher and was a member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. He worked for the Marshall County School District for 13 years and claims to have been the first teacher in Marshall County to receive the “Triple A” degree.

He soon started to fulfill his lifelong dream of being an entrepreneur. He has since owned several businesses, most in Holly Springs. His businesses include Courtesy Service Plaza, The Octagon Club and Skating Rink, Holly Springs Raceway, WKRA radio station, Dreamland Shopping Center, Serenity Limousine Service, The United Center and Serenity Funeral Homes in Holly Springs, New Albany and Oxford.

He eventually married Katie Hicks and is the father of six children.

Bilethon, 24, was the first son in Autry’s marriage to Katie.

“I spent more time with Bilethon than any other of my children,” Autry said, pausing often to fight the tears. “He played golf with me and he worked in many of my businesses.”

Bilethon started working as a chauffeur for his father’s limousine service a couple years ago.

“He was one of my best drivers,” Autry said. “People would call up and ask for him. He had a good attitude with the customers.”

About three years ago, Bilethon started attending Northwest Mississippi Community College to become a funeral director.

Shortly after, Autry started to see changes in his son.

You can read the whole story here.

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