Lincoln police are looking for two people in connection with the disappearance of 24-year-old Sydney Loofe.
Police describe Aubrey C. Trail, 51, and Bailey M. Boswell, 23, as persons of interest in the investigation. Chief Jeff Bliemeister declined to comment on how the two might be connected with Loofe's disappearance.
"Bailey Boswell and Aubrey Trail are two people that we need to speak with, and (we) believe they have additional information concerning Sydney's whereabouts," Bliemeister told reporters Tuesday morning.
— Riley Johnson (@LJSRileyJohnson) November 28, 2017
Loofe missed work Nov. 16 at the Menards in north Lincoln after apparently going on a date the night before with someone she met online, her parents have said. Police confirmed she was last seen in Wilber, 40 miles southwest of Lincoln, on Nov. 15.
Police have called the disappearance "concerning."
Investigators working in Lincoln, Omaha, Wilber and elsewhere in Nebraska have conducted interviews and followed the digital footprints Loofe left behind, Bliemeister said.
Loofe's car and cat, Mimzy, were left at her home in northeast Lincoln, but her phone pinged off a cellphone tower in the Wilber area and has since been disabled, according to her family.
On Tuesday, Bliemeister said investigators continue to analyze and vet the cellphone activity, social media messages and electronic transactions connected with this case.
Sydney Loofe has a yin-yang tattoo on one of her forearms, the word "Believe" with a cross on the inside of her left wrist, and the phrase "Everything will be wonderful someday" on her right bicep.
She is 5-foot-7 and weighs 135 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white Columbia jacket and a cream-colored shirt.
Trail is 6 feet tall and weighs about 284 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, according to the police news release. Boswell is 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes.
A police spokeswoman said Trail and Boswell recently lived in Wilber, but Bliemeister said the two have ties to several other states.
Police have not given more detail, including how the two might be connected, because they want to protect the integrity of their investigation, the chief said. The department provided surveillance photos of the two, apparently taken in the same place, but didn't say when or where the image were from.
Court records showed Trail reported a recent address of an apartment at 621 W. Seventh St. in Wilber.
Last week, Saline County Attorney Tad Eickman obtained an arrest warrant for Trail accusing him of being a felon in possession of a firearm between Sept. 1, 2017, and Nov. 20, 2017, according to court records. The warrant includes a habitual criminal charge because Trail has previous felony convictions in Nebraska for forgery and issuing bad checks.
Trail previously lived in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Falls City, Nebraska, court records show.
Boswell last year reported in court records that she lived in the Missouri towns of Trenton and Milan.
Police encourage anyone with information about the whereabouts of Trail, Boswell or Loofe to call 402-441-6000.
Capt. Jeff Bucher, who leads the police department's investigations unit, is leading the search for Loofe and working with the Saline County Sheriff's Department, Nebraska State Patrol, U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.
"Between Capt. Bucher and Saline County Sheriff Alan Moore, I can assure you we are making every effort to locate Sydney, and we will continue to do so until she is found," Bliemeister told reporters Tuesday morning.
Last week, Loofe's family started an online fundraiser to aid search efforts. The fundraiser, which aims to raise $30,000, had garnered nearly $3,000 in donations as of midday Tuesday.
A friend and coworker said she hopes people continue sharing images of Loofe, Trail and Boswell until they are found.
Terra Gehrig said she knew immediately that something was wrong when she heard Loofe, her friend of five years, was a no-show at work Nov. 16, she said.
Gehrig also works at the Menards on North 27th Street and Cornhusker Highway, and said Loofe was known as a super polite, caring cashier with a “very good heart."
“She’s the kind of person the world needs more of,” Gehrig said.
The two had just texted the day before, when Loofe said she was going on a second date with a woman she knew as “Audrey,” Gehrig said. Loofe didn’t say much about their plans, but mentioned that this was her “dream girl” and that she was excited for the night’s date.
After Loofe was reported missing, Gehrig saw a photo of Boswell, who she now believes to be "Audrey," the 23-year-old Lincoln woman said.
Strong faith keeps Gehrig hopeful her friend will be found and can return home, she said.
“I have hope that it’s going to happen."
SEOUL, South Korea — After 2½ months of relative peace, North Korea launched its most powerful weapon yet early Wednesday, claiming a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that some observers believe could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.
The North said in a special televised announcement hours after the launch that it had successfully fired what it called the Hwasong-15, a new nuclear-capable ICBM that's "significantly more" powerful than the long-range weapons it's previously tested. Outside governments and analysts backed up the North's claim to a jump in missile capability.
A resumption of Pyongyang's torrid testing pace in pursuit of its goal of a viable arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland had been widely expected, but the apparent power and suddenness of the new test still jolted the Korean Peninsula and Washington. The launch at 3:17 a.m. local time and midday in the U.S. capital indicated an effort to perfect the element of surprise and to obtain maximum attention in the United States.
In a government statement released through state media, North Korea said the Hwasong-15, the "greatest ICBM," could be armed with a "super-large heavy nuclear warhead" and strike the "whole mainland" of the United States. The North said the missile, which was fired near the capital Pyongyang, reached a maximum height of 2,780 miles and traveled 590 miles before accurately hitting a sea target, similar to the flight data announced by South Korea's military.
The North said the missile, which was fired at the "highest" launch angle, didn't pose a security threat to its neighbors. It said leader Kim Jong Un after the successful launch "declared with pride" that the country has achieved its goal of becoming a "rocket power."
The firing is a clear message of defiance aimed at the Trump administration, which had just restored the North to a U.S. list of terror sponsors.
A rattled Seoul responded by almost immediately launching three of its own missiles in a show of force. The South's president, Moon Jae-in, expressed worry that North Korea's growing missile threat could force the United States to attack the North.
"If North Korea completes a ballistic missile that could reach from one continent to another, the situation can spiral out of control," Moon said at an emergency meeting in Seoul, according to his office.
Moon has repeatedly declared that there can be no U.S. attack on the North without Seoul's approval, but many here worry that Washington may act without South Korean input.
The launch is North Korea's first since it fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan on Sept. 15.
The missile appears to improve on North Korea's past launches.
If flown on a standard trajectory, instead of Wednesday's lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea's missile and nuclear programs. "Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States," Wright wrote in a blog post for the Union for Concerned Scientists.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile landed inside of Japan's special economic zone in the Sea of Japan, about 155 miles west of Aomori, which is on the northern part of Japan's main island of Honshu. Onodera says the missile could have been an upgraded version of North Korea's Hwasong-14 ICBM or a new missile.
A big unknown, however, is the missile's payload. If, as expected, it carried a light mock warhead, then its effective range would have been shorter, analysts said.
An intercontinental ballistic missile test is considered particularly provocative, and indications that it flew higher than past launches suggest progress by Pyongyang in developing a weapon of mass destruction that could strike the U.S. mainland. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from having that capability — using military force if necessary.
In response to the launch, Trump said the United States will "take care of it." He told reporters after the launch: "It is a situation that we will handle." He did not elaborate.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 620 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan within 200 nautical miles of Japan's coast. It flew for 53 minutes, Japan's defense minister said.
South Korea's responding missile tests included one with a 620-mile range, to mimic striking the North Korea launch site, which is not far from the North Korean capital.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Wednesday afternoon at the request of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile flew higher than previous projectiles.
"It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they've taken," he told reporters at the White House. "It's a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that can threaten everywhere in the world."
A week ago, the Trump administration declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, further straining ties between governments that are still technically at war. Washington also imposed new sanctions on North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies dealing with the North.
North Korea called the terror designation a "serious provocation" that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.
WASHINGTON — The Senate Republican plan to use tax legislation to repeal the federal requirement that Americans have health coverage threatens to derail insurance markets in conservative, rural swaths of the country, according to a Los Angeles Times data analysis.
That could leave consumers in these regions — including most or all of Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming, as well as parts of many other states — with either no options for coverage or health plans that are prohibitively expensive.
“It’s very, very concerning to us,” said Denise Burke, health care analyst at the Department of Insurance in Wyoming, where the cheapest plan for a 40-year-old consumer in most of the state will cost $586 a month next year.
The precise nationwide impact of the Senate GOP tax plan, which would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s unpopular mandate penalty, is unclear, as many forces affect how much insurance costs and where insurers sell plans.
But the legislation is widely expected to cause insurers to raise prices or exit markets out of fear that fewer healthy people will buy plans if there is no longer a penalty for going without coverage.
The risk is greatest in places where health insurance is already very expensive and where there are few insurers.
For example, there are 454 counties where there will be only one insurer selling marketplace plans in 2018 and where the cheapest plan for a 40-year-old consumer will cost more than $500 a month, according to the Times analysis, which is based on data from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
“Repealing the individual mandate will affect insurance markets everywhere,” said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert at the foundation. “But markets where there is already little choice and high premiums are especially vulnerable. … Rural areas could be especially hard hit.”
Eighty-six percent of these 454 at-risk counties have fewer than 50,000 residents, census data show. Health care costs are often higher in rural areas, as there are fewer medical providers and populations tend to be older and sicker.
These counties also overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump last year, with 9 out of 10 backing the Republican presidential ticket, according to election data.
In addition to Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming, the counties are clustered in southwestern Arizona, western Colorado, southern Mississippi, central North Carolina, as well as parts of Georgia, Virginia and West Virginia.
There are also two counties in California — Monterey and San Benito — and two in Florida — Hardee and Monroe — with only one choice of insurer and extremely high premiums.
There are many more counties — including most in the southeastern United States — where there is only one insurer, though premiums are not quite as high.
Republican congressional leaders argue that eliminating the mandate penalty, which is technically a tax, will save many Americans money, especially coupled with other cuts promised in the tax legislation.
“The individual mandate isn’t just any tax. It’s a terribly regressive tax that imposes harsh burdens on low- and middle-income taxpayers,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said as his panel debated the tax bill this month.
“Zeroing it out means we have a chance to provide greater tax relief to middle-class families, through both reduced penalties and lower overall rates.”
The insurance mandate — which subjects Americans who don’t have coverage to an annual penalty of $695 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is larger — has always been the most unpopular part of the 2010 health care law, often called Obamacare.
But most experts agree that eliminating the mandate without some other mechanism to encourage young, healthy Americans to get coverage could have disastrous consequences for the individual insurance market, which serves consumers who don’t get coverage through an employer or a government plan such as Medicare or Medicaid.
Independent analyses by the American Academy of Actuaries, the Congressional Budget Office and others suggest that without some kind of penalty, many Americans would wait to get insurance until they are sick. That would push up premiums, driving away more consumers and causing what is known as a death spiral.
Several states, including Washington, experienced just this kind of market collapse when they tried guaranteeing their residents coverage without any kind of requirement that all people — including the young and healthy — get coverage.
“It’s kind of insurance 101,” said Jim Havens, who oversees individual market sales for Premera Blue Cross, a leading insurer in Washington state. Premera will be the only insurer on Alaska’s marketplace next year.
“If you only have people who need care the most, insurance becomes really expensive really fast,” Havens said. “A mandate is fundamentally so important to make insurance affordable.”
Virtually every major physician group, hospital association and patient advocate group has called on congressional Republicans not to scrap the mandate.
“Repealing the individual mandate without otherwise increasing access to adequate, affordable health insurance is a step backwards for individuals and families,” the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the March of Dimes, Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society and 11 other patient groups warned in a letter to Congress.
Access and affordability are already a challenge in many parts of the country, as insurers have struggled to adjust to new rules imposed by the health law, including requirements that health plans cover sick consumers and offer a basic set of health benefits.
And though many Americans who qualify for financial aid through the health care law have been cushioned from high premiums, consumers who earn too much to get insurance subsidies face eye-popping bills.
The health law provides premium assistance to people with annual incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or between $12,060 and $48,240.
There were signs that markets were stabilizing in many parts of the country until this year’s GOP push to repeal the law, which included moves by the Trump administration to cut enrollment efforts and stop a separate monthly payment to insurers, used to lower the cost of deductibles and copayments for low-income consumers.
Those steps prompted many insurers to leave markets or dramatically raise premiums for 2018.