For the first time, the Lancaster County Attorney's Office will hire a temporary investigator to work on a big case that it refused to identify.
"It is for a specific case where we anticipate a great deal of background work, a lot of reports from various agencies," Lancaster County Attorney Joe Kelly told the County Board, which unanimously approved the hire at its meeting Thursday.
Kelly would not comment after the meeting on whether this investigator would work on one of the state's most highly publicized cases — the disappearance and death of 24-year-old Lincoln woman Sydney Loofe.
Initially a Lincoln Police Department missing persons case, the search for Loofe ultimately expanded beyond Lancaster County into Saline and Clay counties and was investigated by six agencies. The FBI is now at the helm.
Loofe's body was found along with evidence of foul play off a country road southeast of Clay Center on Dec. 4. Two persons of interest in the case remain in custody on unrelated charges as the investigation continues.
The investigator would likely be a retired police sergeant who would be responsible for finding and interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence and possibly serving subpoenas, he said. The position would expire in a year, Kelly said.
The position would cost the county a maximum of $70,872 if the investigator worked 40 hours a week every week for the yearlong stint.
Kelly told the board he doesn't anticipate the investigator would draw the entire salary.
This is outside the County Attorney Office's $7.7 million annual budget, he said.
Kelly said in an email this would be the first investigator employed by the Lancaster County Attorney's Office.
Generally, prosecutors work with law enforcement investigators on individual cases, sometimes from start to finish.
The Douglas County Attorney's Office has four full-time investigators of its own, Kelly said.
"We learned a long time ago that when you get a case like that, at least up front, you need somebody on the inside who is familiar with the law enforcement side as well as our clerical side and our court side," Kelly said.
County Board Chairman Todd Wiltgen also declined to specify what case the investigator would be working on, but said if Kelly felt the position is necessary the board supports him.
"He has his reasons," Wiltgen said. "The county attorney has our confidence."