The fourth week of the murder trial for Aubrey Trail ended with a guilty verdict on July 10 in Saline County District Court.
Dr. Michelle Elieff of Omaha, a forensic pathologist, testified on the autopsy report she performed on Sydney Loofe on Dec. 7, 2017.
Because Loofe’s family was in attendance, only the jury was shown photos of her examination. Elieff walked the jury through her process, starting with X-rays, saying almost no tissue was present and there were no arteries or blood vessels to be found in Loofe’s body.
“Many segments of the body had been exposed to elements,” Elieff said.
During her autopsy, Elieff noted that although part of Loofe’s neck was missing, she was able to focus the cause of death as asphyxiation.
“There was hemorrhaging in the neck area, which show signs of compressional strangulation,” Elieff said.
Elieff said many of Loofe’s organs were absent, the only one present being her right lung. She also noted injuries Loofe had suffered shortly before her death, such as an earlobe being torn and a bruise on her scalp. Loofe also had abrasions on her wrists, although according to Elieff, they show “no pattern of restraint.”
Elieff reviewed the way Loofe was dismembered and markings animals had made on Loofe’s jaw and arm. She also shared there was no blood present for a toxicology report to be done but was able to conclude her cause of death.
“She died of homicidal means, including strangulation,” Elieff said.
Mississippi state forensic scientist Steven Symes then testified. He recounted how he was contacted by the state of Nebraska to examine Loofe’s body, which was sent to him on Dec. 13.
“I like to work with the remains first and then allow information (about the victim and situation) to come in later,” Symes said.
Symes walked the jury through his process as well, starting from Loofe’s ankles and working his way up. He determined through his experience that a hacksaw like the one purchased by Trail and girlfriend Bailey Boswell was used for the dismemberment.
He used autopsy photos and a model of a skeleton to explain what was being seen on Loofe’s body.
Symes said he examined many superficial cuts and “false starts” when it came to the dismemberment.
“The reason I know it’s a hacksaw is that I am getting very fine teeth,” Symes said, referring to the blade.
State prosecutor Mike Guinan then presented Symes with a replica of the hacksaw Trail and Boswell were seen buying Nov. 15 at a Home Depot in Lincoln.
“This could be consistent with this particular purchase,” Symes said.
Trail took the stand on behalf of the defense, marking his first appearance since cutting his neck in court June 24.
Having previously denied any involvement in Loofe’s death, Trail now says he killed her.
At one point during his four-hour testimony, Trail said, “I killed her. I didn’t mean to but I did.”
Defense attorney Joe Murray questioned Trail about his relationship with both Boswell and Loofe, including what occurred the night of Nov. 15, 2017.
Trail said he knew Loofe before the meet-up, as far back as March of that year.
He claimed he first met her while she was working as a cashier at Menards in Lincoln and hired her to make phone calls on behalf of his illegal business, but Loofe did not enjoy it and left “the group” a short time after.
In early November, Trail heard from her again, after Boswell swiped right on the Tinder dating app to connect with Loofe.
“I wanted to talk to Sydney and see about the group,” Trail said.
On Nov. 15, Trail said Boswell and Loofe met up for a date where they traveled back to Wilber. While there, Trail said Loofe shut her phone off because her mom was texting her.
He brought up the subject of sex after offering to pay Loofe $5,000 for her money troubles, clarifying she never had sex with him, just Boswell.
“Sexually, we discussed asphyxiation, but Sydney said it seemed like a scary thing to do,” Trail said.
Loofe proceeded to have sex with Boswell and after Boswell was choked by Trail for sexual pleasure, he did it to Loofe.
According to Trail, Loofe started “shaking and gagging and her lips turned blue.”
Murray asked Trail if his actions in Loofe’s death were intentional, to which Trail responded, “No. I use people for money and sex. That would be counterproductive.”
Trail said after it became clear Loofe was dead, they needed to do something with the body. He first tried fitting her into a trunk at the residence. After seeing the trunk would not fit in the back of the car, Trail turned toward dismemberment.
“I dismembered her in the kitchen and contained the blood on the drop cloths with towels,” Trail said.
He testified he did so with a saw, denying the hacksaw he was seen purchasing the day before at Home Depot to be the weapon. Trail then threw the items away near Nebraska City.
“I took the drop cloths and clothes and bleached them in the tub,” Trail said. “Bailey wiped down the walls.”
After dismembering the body and putting the remains in garbage bags, Trail said they disposed of the body in a ditch in Clay County. He and Boswell traveled back to Wilber for the night. They left on Nov. 17 after Trail got a message from the Lincoln Police about a missing person report.
They picked up C.B., a woman who testified previously, in Omaha and traveled to the Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“I had no plan,” Trail said. “We went to a motel but left early because it felt like everyone was watching us.”
After staying in a hotel room connected to the casino for two or three days, Trail decided to go back to Clay County to move the body, also saying C.B. was present during this trip.
They went to Boarders Inn in Grand Island for a few days.
After C.B. received a voicemail from the Lincoln Police about a welfare check on her, Boswell and Trail dropped her off at the casino and headed to Iowa.
“The plan was to go to Mexico or camp out in a national park,” Trail said.
They eventually went to Branson, Missouri, and on Nov. 30, were arrested.
When questioned over the many interviews conducted with the FBI, Trail told the jury he made everything up.
“I made up the sexual fantasy because no one would believe we were just having sex,” Trail said.
Closing statements were presented July 10 and the jury entered deliberations a little before 4 p.m.
The prosecution went first with Mike Guinan speaking before the jury. He began by laying out the timeline of events proving Trail committed to kill Loofe in a premeditated manner.
The first text messages Boswell sent Loofe, under the fake name Audrey when they were trying to set up a date via Tinder, were shown.
In one interaction during the weekend of Nov. 11, 2017, Loofe wrote “I’m at DQ with my family and getting ready to say goodbye.”
“She didn’t know (the goodbye) would be forever, but it was,” Guinan said.
Prosecution then recounted the events of Nov. 13-16, the period of time when Loofe went missing. On Nov. 15, Trail and Boswell were seen buying a hacksaw, tin snips and a utility knife at a Home Depot, shortly before Boswell’s second date with Loofe.
“Aubrey Trail will tell you those tools are good for working on metal signs, but they’re even better for cutting up a body,” Guinan said.
Boswell was also seen buying bleach and drop cloths that evening, of which Guinan asked the jury, “This is how they are preparing for a date?”
He moved on to the evening of Nov. 15, when Loofe was supposedly killed by Trail and Boswell, asking the jury to recall the evidence found at the scene and presented in court. Items included a green shirt worn by Trail in security footage Nov. 15 and the shirt Loofe was wearing for her date with Boswell.
“Sydney Loofe fought that night. She fought to get away,” Guinan said. “Premeditation played out to the extreme.”
Trail’s defense attorney Joe Murray made his presentation to the jury. He addressed testimony given by Trail the day before, when he changed his story.
“You’ve known from the start this case is a big deal,” Murray said. “Have you been shocked? Have you been surprised? Yes.”
Murray focused his closing argument on the lack of DNA evidence and Trail’s lack of a plan when it came to murdering Loofe.
“They had no plan and some of the things Trail told you were consistent throughout his interviews,” Murray said.
Those included no one was forced to do anything, sex was a huge involvement of Boswell and Trail’s lifestyle and that Boswell had nothing to do with Loofe’s death.
Murray asked the jury to think back to the way Loofe was killed. Dr. Michelle Elieff testified Loofe died by homicidal means, including strangulation.
“They acknowledged the cause of death was strangulation, but we can’t tell if it was intentional or accidental,” Murray said. “No plan equals lack of premeditation.”
After being read instructions by Judge Vicky Johnson, the jury began its deliberation around 4 p.m.
Shortly before 7 p.m., the jury was back with the verdict: guilty.
Trail stared straight ahead as it was read and Loofe’s family members began to cry.
A three judge panel will decide Trail’s fate. Trail waived his right to a jury hearing after being found guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to kill on July 10.
The jury was set to determine if certain evidence was justifiable enough for Trail to receive the death penalty as his sentence, for which state prosecutors had previously called. The jury has been officially excused from its duties.
Now the panel will make the decision at a later date. Judge Vicky Johnson, who presided over the case, will be one of the judges.
Trail’s lawyers, Joe and Ben Murray of Hebron, spoke with the media following the hearing outside the courthouse in Wilber.
“Obviously we are disappointed with the verdict,” Joe Murray said. “But Trail seems to be accepting of it.”
Both attorneys shared details on Trail’s mindset during the trial and what exactly he slashed his neck with in court on June 24. According to Ben Murray, it was a razor blade wrapped in a bandage.
Trail never gave an exact reason why he did it. They said that was one reason why they were not confident in a not guilty verdict.
“Once his throat was slashed, that’s when we kind of knew,” Murray said. “I was worried about what kind of impression that would have on the jury.”
If the panel does not find any aggravators in the case, Trail will face life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Coming to this conclusion could take months, according to both attorneys, as they have to refile motions and have litigation evidence reviewed.
“I think we did the best anyone could do for this man,” Murray said. “We wanted a different outcome but we are glad it’s over.”