Mississippi residents ‘terrified’ convicted felon currently being detained will return to ‘threatening and harassing’ neighborhood
Published 7:47 am Saturday, April 15, 2023
Residents of an Oxford neighborhood say they are worried that a convicted felon who is currently being detained in prison will soon be released and return to behaving in what neighborhood residents describe as a “threatening and harassing” manner.
Some of the residents in Oxford told The Oxford Eagle newspaper they are even afraid to give their names because they have small children at home or they live alone.
“Don’t use my name, but we are terrified,” said one mother. Her husband joined her on the telephone line to agree. “We are completely terrified and shocked. It’s been concerning for quite a while and we are begging for help.”
The man in question is Bilethon Autry, 38, who lives at 3887 Majestic Oaks in the Grand Oaks golf community south of Ole Miss.
He is no stranger to violence. At that same house — in 2009 — he shot to death his half brother, allegedly assaulted his father and then kept police in a standoff situation for several hours until the SWAT team came in to get him.
Afterward, his father, Billy Autry, told a news crew that his son wasn’t living at the home because “he wasn’t allowed to,” but had just been released for a mental facility and was stopping by to pick up his medicine when the assault began.
“Now he will get help, but look what has happened,” the father told Action News 5, saying his son is bipolar, experiences mental problems and has shown violent tendencies in the past. The father also told the media outlet “he did not want the mental hospital to release his son” after several violent encounters had the family afraid.
Bilethon Autry had been committed after he reportedly attacked his father with a golf club and was released from North Mississippi State Hospital the week before the shooting. It had been the brother he later killed who had driven him home, wanting to help any way he could. Autry was later convicted of manslaughter and received a 24-year sentence.
Bilethon Autry’s mental state has been recorded in many media articles. In one, written by USA Today in 2013 concerning jail conditions, involved a lawsuit. Autry’s mother, Katie, told the media then that her son was housed at East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian and his mental state had suffered.
She said she had been “assured that while serving his sentence, my son would get the help he so desperately needs. …This turned out to be false. Since my son has been in East Mississippi, I have seen his mental state — his mental state got worse, not better.”
According to public records, Autry graduated from Oxford High School in 2003 and served his time at the Mississippi Department of Correction’s Leakesville facility. He was scheduled to be released Jan. 1, 2028, but was released early. The home he lives in is on Majestic Oaks, and owned by a family member reports say.
The Grand Oaks residential area has several smaller communities within. One is Waterstone, a 35 home neighborhood where Autry also lives. This week, Waterstone community members reached out to police and other officials to find a way to safeguard themselves after they say Autry was following a neighborhood woman recently as well as standing in the middle of the road and harassing motorists.
One person agreed to speak with The Eagle about her experience.
On Tuesday around lunchtime, Rhonda Lusco was preparing to drive her employee home after a project was completed. As the two walked out of Lusco’s home, they noticed a “large man walking up the hill in the middle of the street,” which they both thought odd.
“We weren’t sure what was going on, but it seemed strange to be walking in the middle of a street like that,” Lusco said. “He could have been hurt.”
The two women entered Lusco’s car and she proceeded to back out of the driveway, keeping an eye out for the man’s location so she wouldn’t hit him. That’s when they noticed the man was now closer and on the corner near the car.
“Are you going to town?” he asked. She shook her head no, but she said the man then became enraged.
“Later, when the police were there and the man was ranting loudly, I heard him say something about ‘those white women,” she said. “But I’m white and my friend is African-American, as is the man, so I have no idea what he meant by that.”
Lusco said she’s lived in a big cities and has been mugged before, so she’s careful. But she didn’t think she would have to be so careful within her own neighborhood, much less on her own street.
“The man got belligerent,” she added. “It was his tone. I didn’t know why he was doing that. I could tell something was wrong and that it wasn’t safe. I just rolled up my window and my friend and I were saying to each other we didn’t know why the man was behaving like that. It was very frightening because I didn’t know who this man was.”
After the police were called Tuesday by several neighbors, six or seven police cars congregated at Autry’s home, Lusco said, adding that she could hear him ranting for about an hour and a half from her house up the hill.
Deputy Chief of Oxford Police Sheridan Maiden told The Oxford Eagle Friday that Autry was picked up April 11 after the department contacted the Department of Corrections about his behavior. The DOC issued a warrant and Oxford police detained him.
“Since he was on parole, we contacted the DOC and they are the ones who issued the warrant for us to take him in,” he said.
Maiden said that although Autry is currently — as of Friday — held in the Lafayette County Detention Center, it will be up to DOC as to when he will be released. “They are the ones who will make that decision,” he said.
And that has his neighbors worried.
They told The Eagle they don’t know why the man was released from prison in the first place.
“What it could have been rather than what it was is what scared me,” Lusco said of the Tuesday incident. “And then, when I found out about him, I realized this was the making of a disaster.”