Victims: Shirley Drouet (43) 4/20/1980
Joe Broussard 4/20/1980
Codefendant: John Alton Sandifer - Capital murder charges dropped after prosecutors said they
couldn't prove he knew Autry was going to shoot anyone or that he had
anything to do with the shooting. Plead guilty to an unrelated burglary charge.
Sentenced to 7 years. Paroled in Sept. 1983. Back in jail by April 1985 on
charges of credit card abuse, possession of drugs and parole violation.
Autry was convicted of shooting 43-year-old Port Arthur convenience store clerk, Shirley Drouet, between the eyes with a .38 caliber pistol on April 20, 1980. He then shot two witnesses in the head, one of whom, Joe Broussard, a former Roman Catholic priest, died instantly, while the other, Anthanasios Svarnas, a Greek seaman, survived but was left with permanent brain damage. The crime had been committed with John Alton Sandifer, Autry's roommate. Although no money was missing from the cash register, a carton of beer valued at $2.70 was missing.
Drouet was a mother of five.
On Oct. 5, 1983, Autry was denied a stay of execution by the Supreme Court in a 5-to-4 decision. He was on a gurney with saline solution running into his veins when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White granted a last-minute stay of execution. The stay was granted at 11:30 p.m., just 31 minutes before the execution was scheduled. Attorney General, Jim Mattox of Texas, then asked the Supreme Court on Oct. 17 to set aside the stay. Families of death row inmates met with Governor Mark White to plead for a month stay.
Autry sued to have his execution televised. The Board of Corrections denied his request.
Autry’s “proportionality” issue, questioning whether his sentence was proportional to those given other people for similar crimes, was denied. Autry continued to state that his accomplice, John Sandifer, was responsible for the shooting deaths. Sandifer plea-bargained and is now out on parole.
Autry was executed by lethal injection on March 14, 1984 and was the second man executed in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1982.
He declined to make a final statement but did request a last meal of a hamburger, French fries, and a Dr Pepper.
Sandifer was also indicted on capital murder charges. But the charge against him was dropped after prosecutors said they couldn’t prove Sandifer knew Autry was going to shoot the clerk or that he had anything to do with the shooting.
Sandifer pleaded guilty to an unrelated burglary charge and was sentenced to seven years in prison.