A Saline County judge has agreed to move the high-profile murder trial of Bailey Boswell, which was set to begin next month in Wilber, west to Lexington. It will begin in March.
Boswell, 25, is accused of killing and dismembering Sydney Loofe, a 24-year-old Lincoln woman, in November 2017.
Boswell faces charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and unlawful disposal of human remains.
Her attorney, Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, had requested the change in venue, arguing that media coverage of the trial of Boswell's co-defendant, Aubrey Trail, over the summer made it impossible for her to get a fair trial in Saline County.
In July, a jury found Trail guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
Publicity of his trial was widespread and detailed weeks of trial testimony and evidence, some of which likely will not be presented at Boswell's trial.
"Virtually anyone who reads the newspaper or watches television news in Saline County would have knowledge of the case ... knowledge from actual witness testimony, not news stories of what is expected to be presented at trial, or rumors and gossip at the local coffee klatch," Lancaster said.
In an order Friday, District Judge Vicki Johnson cited a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court decision in an Indiana case, Irvin v. Dowd, which involved a case that had become a "cause celebre" of a small community and news coverage blanketed the county.
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Johnson said in 1961 there was no internet where videos of a co-defendant's trial could be viewed, no media web pages or social media accounts where anyone could voice an opinion regarding a defendant's guilt and punishment before trial.
Johnson said the record of pretrial publicity and expressed prejudice here far exceeded the record in the Indiana case, and she was bound to follow precedent.
"The court finds that the pervasive publicity makes it impossible for Boswell to receive a fair trial in Saline County, or even Southeast Nebraska," she wrote.
Johnson said Dawson County District Judge James Doyle had agreed to make his courtroom available in Lexington for the trial now set to start March 16.
Boswell is accused of bringing Loofe, a hardware store clerk, to the Wilber apartment Boswell and Trail shared on Nov. 15, 2017, after the women had met on the dating app Tinder.
Prosecutors say Loofe's phone was turned off soon after the women reached Wilber and never came back on. Searchers found it later, broken, near Wilber, not far from pieces of Loofe's ID.
Prosecutors say Boswell and Trail bought tools used to dismember Loofe earlier that day.
Her remains were discovered in rural Clay County on Dec. 4.