WILBER — As rain poured down outside Tuesday, jurors got their first glimpse of the murder trial that will unwind in front of them over the next three weeks.
Nebraska Assistant Attorney General Sandra Allen told the group of six women and six men they were selected to hear Aubrey Trail’s first-degree murder case, but this was more than that.
"This was a planned seduction to kill somebody,” she said. "The somebody is Sydney Loofe.”
Allen said Trail and Bailey Boswell, his co-defendant, are the ones who planned it.
Defense attorney Joe Murray said Loofe died accidentally, unintentionally, after being part of a sexual fantasy.
“This is not, I suggest to you, an open-and-shut case,” he said, urging the jurors to keep an open mind.
But first, Allen walked them through Loofe’s disappearance after a Tinder date on Nov. 15, 2017, with Boswell, who had gone by the name Audrey on the dating app. Loofe sent a friend "Audrey's" picture, which later would help Lincoln police connect Boswell to Loofe.
The two met for the first time Nov. 14, 2017, a Tuesday, after chatting on the app over the weekend. They smoked pot and Boswell drove them around, and they made plans to get together again the next night.
What may have sounded harmless was the start of a plan, Allen suggested, describing how Trail and Boswell, who lived together in Wilber, had checked into a Lincoln hotel near Loofe’s place of work, then went on a 12-minute shopping trip at a nearby Home Depot, picking up a hacksaw, tin snips, drop cloths and utility knives.
Earlier in the day, Boswell had bought trash bags, laundry soap and bleach at the Dollar General in Wilber, then went back for duct tape and roasting pans before leaving for Lincoln.
Allen said the jury will see a video of Trail on Nov. 15, 2017, walking into the Menards on North 27th Street where Loofe worked, their paths nearly crossing.
She described how Trail turned and looked back at Loofe, then looked in his pocket, then back at Loofe a second time. Then, according to phone records, he called Boswell.
Later that night, after Boswell leaves Trail to pick up Loofe for a second date, all three of their cellphones would "go dark.” Loofe’s never came back on.
Police ultimately used cellphone records that showed Boswell’s and Trail’s phones moving, then stopping and moving again the day Loofe didn’t show up at work and people started worrying about the 24-year-old who didn’t make a habit of missing her shifts and not responding to texts.
That led searchers to rural Clay County on a cold, windy December day, where they walked ditches and fields and came upon a gruesome discovery: a trash bag in a ditch with part of an arm sticking out.
Loofe’s family walked out of the courtroom as Allen went on about other bags, more body parts. How searchers knew it was Sydney because of a tattoo on her upper arm: “Everything will be wonderful someday.” Allen said tool marks on the remains were consistent with a hacksaw.
Investigators found marks on her back and the top of her head and restraint marks on the outside of both of her wrists.
She said they didn’t find most of Loofe's internal organs. Her heart, tongue, kidneys and spleen were all gone.
Allen said Trail told investigators the meeting was part of a sexual fantasy that involved Loofe and two other women besides Boswell.
"But we have evidence to suggest that is a fabrication,” Allen said.
In a decoded jail note from Trail to Boswell, she said, he fed her a story she could tell investigators about how Trail had wanted to make a snuff film to sell.
"I told you all the time that no one would seriously get hurt and you believed me. Now you know it was all lies and you now believe that I planned to kill someone all along and I used you to help me,” he wrote. "You will have to fill in the blanks, baby, but this story is good."
Murray told jurors that Trail and Loofe had a much closer relationship than has been depicted so far. Trail says Loofe had been offered money to participate in a sexual fantasy knowing it involved erotic asphyxiation.
“Sydney’s death was not intentional. It was not planned,” he said.
Murray said Trail is not a particularly nice man; but, with respect to the charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, he has told the truth and has told it multiple times.
Trail said he and Boswell panicked after Loofe died, “and the next horrible, poor, bad decision was made.”
Murray said Trail cut her body to fit into a trunk, so they wouldn’t be seen taking her out of the apartment.
The issue, Murray told the jury, is how did she die?
If convicted, Trail would face a possible death sentence.