Georgia police are searching for a 21-year-old mother of two who is thought to be in “grave danger” and possibly being held hostage by a man suspected of murder.
Autumn Keara Finlay vanished after her boyfriend, Cody Bryce Matthews, 20, allegedly shot and killed a man on Sunday in Butts County. The gunfire erupted in a pool area—close to tennis courts where children played—at the Jackson Glenn subdivision, a local newspaper, the Jackson Progress-Argus, reported.
Matthews is wanted for murder and aggravated assault in connection to the fatal shooting, which claimed the life of a man in his 30s. Police did not release the man’s name on Monday afternoon, but relatives identified him as Ryan Ray of Jenkinsburg.
Authorities have released few details about Finlay and Matthews. But on social media, Finlay’s friends and relatives say Matthews was her boyfriend.
“Y’all please share!!!!” Finlay’s mom, Denise Taylor, frantically posted on Facebook. “My daughter is in danger I can’t breathe … if anyone sees him or her please call 911 can’t reach her phone goes straight to voicemail my heart is dying.”
According to family members’ Facebook posts, no one has heard from Finlay since about 11 p.m. on Sunday. Her sister, Chrichelle Wood, wrote that Finlay called her parents from a private number and claimed she “was with a friend and was on the way home.”
“Something isn’t right,” Wood added. “I don’t believe she is safe. Y’all please help bring my baby sister home …. She has 2 babies she has to come home to.”
In another post, Wood said both Finlay’s and Matthews’ vehicles are parked at the suspected killer’s home. Both their cellphones appeared to be turned off.
“Cody HAS been violent towards my sister in the past so I do not believe her to be safe right now and do believe she is being held against her will,” Wood wrote. “Autumn has 2 little boys to come home to and would not just run off with Cody especially after he just killed a man. She would not go willingly. This isn’t like her.”
Michelle Finlay, Autumn’s stepmother, told The Daily Beast that the missing mom has a 2-year-old boy and a 5-year-old who just had his birthday on Sunday. “She is our youngest girl out of 5,” Michelle Finlay said. “She’s a hard worker, bright and very smart.”
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Wood said her sister isn’t typically secretive and tells her family where she’s going. “She wouldn’t give us a name and wouldn’t tell us where she was or anything,” Wood said of the last time she spoke to Finlay. The sibling believes Matthews instructed Finlay on what to say.
Wood said that “police aren’t looking at her as any kind of accomplice.”
“I’m not just saying it because she’s my sister,” Wood said of Finlay. “She’s a sweet girl. She’d give you the shirt off her back.” Wood said that when Finlay was 5 years old, she had their mother pull over to the roadside so Finlay could give her McDonald’s burger to a homeless man.
“She’s always been a good kid,” Wood added. “She doesn't have a track record of any trouble. She’s never gone off the wall and took off.”
Finlay and Matthews have been dating for about a year and, according to Wood, had a “rocky relationship.” Wood said, “There’s been points where he’s not allowed at our house,” but the tension between Finlay’s parents and Matthews would blow over.
Wood said Finlay was working as a waitress at Denny’s but lost her job because of COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, Finlay recently moved out of her family home—which is in the Jackson Glenn subdivision where the shooting took place—and into the house where Matthews lives with his mother. Wood told The Daily Beast both she and Finlay left their parents’ house because their father is an electrician, whose work is essential, and they didn’t want to put their children at risk of contracting the virus.
On Sunday, Finlay was at the home of Matthews’ mother when Matthews allegedly left and committed the shooting. Finlay’s children were with their father, Wood said.
Wood said U.S. Marshals were at her parents’ home on Monday and keeping them updated on the manhunt. “We have no idea if they went north, south, east, west, or if they’re in the state of Georgia anymore,” Wood said.
“He has nothing to lose,” Wood said of Matthews. “I know he has put hands on my sister before. She confided in me about that. That’s why I’m so scared.”
It’s unclear why Matthews allegedly shot a man—or why he’s believed to be keeping Finlay against her will.
The Butts County Sheriff’s Office did not return messages left Monday.
After the shooting on Sunday afternoon, word spread quickly in the small-town community that Matthews was the alleged gunman. Wood said rumors are circulating that the shooting stemmed from a drug deal gone bad.
Finlay used to work at a Waffle House restaurant with the girlfriend of the victim, Wood said. “Detectives are not telling us anything at this point, but they did know each other,” the sibling told The Daily Beast.
Matthews appears to have a history of arrests in Butts County.
According to jail log books published by the Progress-Argus, in February 2019, Matthews was booked on charges of marijuana possession and theft by receiving stolen property.
In March 2018, Matthews was arrested for entering an auto or other motor vehicle with intent to commit a felony, as well as possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain crimes.