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Joshua Keadle first appearance

Joshua Keadle (right), 36, watches defense attorney Jeff Pickens as he makes his first appearance in Nemaha County Court in Auburn in October.

An arraignment set for Monday in Joshua Keadle's murder case turned into a hearing on a defense motion alleging there was insufficient evidence to send his case to district court.

Keadle, 36, is accused of first-degree murder in connection to the disappearance and presumed death of Tyler “Ty” Thomas, a 19-year-old Peru State College student who vanished Dec. 3, 2010.

Her body never was found. But Keadle is believed to have been the last person to see her alive.

At a preliminary hearing March 1, his lawyer, Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, argued that without a body or cause of death there wasn’t even circumstantial evidence to show she was murdered — let alone evidence of premeditation, an element of first-degree murder.

She just as easily could have died accidentally, Pickens argued.

But Nemaha County Judge Curtis Maschman later sent the case to district court, finding that the prosecution had submitted enough evidence at the hearing to support a conclusion that Thomas is dead and that a crime led to it. The fact her body never was recovered was enough to support an inference that her death was "caused by a criminal agency," he said, which is enough for the case to proceed toward trial.

As for premeditation, the judge wrote that prosecutors submitted evidence that, if believed, would support a finding of premeditation.

District Judge Rick A. Schreiner held a hearing Monday on what's called a plea in abatement motion challenging the county judge's decision. Attorneys on both sides will submit briefs to Schreiner before he decides if the case should move on to arraignment.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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