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Man says girls’ death was an accident

By Daily Herald - | Apr 27, 2003

The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Cody Lynn Nielsen admitted burying a 15-year-old Hyrum girl, digging her up and burning her body, but said her death was an accident, according to documents filed in the case.

Nielsen is accused of capital homicide in the June 2000 slaying of 15-year-old Trisha Autry.

She 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.

Prosecutors on Friday released Nielsen’s statements as part of a motion asking 1st District Judge Clint Judkins to rule the statements admissible. A hearing for arguments on the issue is set for May 12.

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

Judkins last month allowed Nielsen to withdraw his guilty plea. The dismissed charges have been reinstated and Nielsen once again could be put to death.

Judkins previously ruled the statements couldn’t be used during Nielsen’s sentencing hearing, which prompted prosecutors to file an appeal with the Utah Supreme Court.

Prosecutors now say Nielsen’s statements are critical to proving his guilt.

Nielsen is accused of abducting Trisha from her home in June 2000, then fatally beating and dismembering her.

A year later, the girl’s jawbone, as well as clothing and hundreds of fragments of burned human bones, were unearthed at the Millville coyote research facility.

The day after he pleaded guilty to the murder, Nielsen asked to speak with Cache County sheriff’s Capt. Bob DeGasser, according to court documents.

He told DeGasser “he would like to tell Mrs. Autry (the victim’s mother) what happened, and that he didn’t want her to think that some of the awful things that (prosecutors were) saying were true,” according to an affidavit from DeGasser.

“He said her death was an accident. ‘I buried her and dug her up and burned her, but I did not cut her up like they say.’ “

DeGasser’s affidavit said he cautioned Nielsen three times that he should not be talking with him without talking to his defense attorney. “I did not want to take advantage of him during his emotional time,” DeGasser said in the documents.

Nielsen told DeGasser he had several arguments with his attorney because he wanted to tell authorities what happened, but his attorney would not let him, the documents said.

Other affidavits say Nielsen told another officer, as well as his father, that he knew his attorneys would be angry at him for talking but he did not care.

Nielsen is scheduled to stand trial July 29.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A3.

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