Details of Disappearance
Autrey was last seen at 9:00 p.m. February 20, 2008 at her home in the 300 block of Hacienda Way in Cayucos, California. She had invited her grandson, Matthew James Levine, to move into her house and he was living there at the time of her disappearance.
A photograph of Levine is posted with this case summary. He stated he and his grandmother played cards that night, and when he woke up at 9:00 a.m. the next day, she was gone. She has never been heard from again. Levine reported her missing at 7:30 p.m. on February 21.
Autrey left her white Buick behind at her residence. Her feet and knees gave her problems and she usually didn't walk places; she preferred to drive or get a ride from a friend. Authorities launched a search of the surrounding area, believing she had gotten lost or injured.
Her waterlogged purse was found near the Cayucos pier, but no other sign of her was located. Autrey's friends stated she didn't go to the beach very often. Investigators believed she was carrying her cellular phone with her when she went missing, but she normally kept the phone in her car. Autrey often carried hundred-dollar bills.
A month after Autrey's disappearance, Levine turned himself in to the police and confessed to killing his grandmother at their home on the night of February 20. He claimed he was under the influence of over-the-counter cough syrup and marijuana and when Autrey scolded him and told him to change his lifestyle, he hit her in the chest and accidentally killed her.
Levine said he dumped Autrey's body off a cliff in a remote area north of Ragged Point. He was arrested and charged with murder and elder abuse, and investigators began to search for the body. The area Levine specified is very rugged and rocky, and extensive searches turned up no sign of Autrey's remains.
Levine is an alcoholic and a drug addict with multiple arrests for alcohol-related offenses. He also had a prior conviction for threatening his girlfriend with a gun. Prior to his confession, police had not named him as a suspect or even stated they believed Autrey met with foul play, but they had searched the home they shared, towed Autrey's car and Levine's pickup truck, and taken a DNA sample from him.
At Levine's trial, the prosecution described him as a psychopath who had deliberately murdered Autrey to inherit her money and her house. She had been considering cutting him out of her will. Bloodstains were found in Autrey's house, garage and car, and authorities believed she had been stabbed rather than struck in the chest.
Levine maintained that his grandmother's death was an accident. He said he suffers from anxiety and bipolar disorder, and he hid her body because he panicked. He was convicted of first-degree murder and elder abuse in April 2009. He was sentenced to life in prison, and must serve at least 25 years before becoming eligible for parole.
Autrey was formerly employed as an administrative assistant at a Fresno, California school. Her family describes her as a very active, capable, social woman who traveled and had no significant health problems. It is uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning; she kept in close touch with her family and kept a daily calendar so they would know her whereabouts. As a safety precaution, she rarely left the house after dark.
Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.