A high-profile murder trial scheduled for Gage County next month has prompted law enforcement to look into increased security at the courthouse.
Joshua Keadle will be tried for the 2010 killing of a Peru State College student. The trial, scheduled to start Sept. 16 and last about three weeks, was moved last month from Auburn to Beatrice.
On Wednesday, Gage County Sheriff Millard “Gus” Gustafson briefed the Board of Supervisors on plans to adjust security measures at the courthouse during the trial.
Currently, there are three public entrances to the building and security consists of a screening station on the third floor, where county and district courtrooms are located.
Gustafson said the plan is to restrict access to one door, on the lower east side of the building. The screening station will include a baggage scanner and other security measures.
He said the south entrance will remain open for Department of Motor Vehicles customers, but that area will be blocked off from the rest of the building and third-floor lobby. If DMV customers have other business in the courthouse, they’ll have to exit the building, and enter through the lower east door and pass through the screening station.
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Board member Gary Lytle suggested that instead of setting up a scanner on the first floor the county should maintain its current screening station on the third floor and station additional security at the main entrances to do pocket searches.
“In the idea of not distracting or not changing the business of the county that this case is moving into, why don’t we leave the screening station where it’s at and have extra officers at both doors doing pocket checks or whatever and do a complete screen when they go through upstairs?” he asked.
Gustafson didn’t rule out any ideas and said options are still being considered. Two additional workers have already been hired for the trial, and there could be nearly 100 potential jury members for selection who would need to be screened.
Gustafson said Gage County is keeping track of expenses associated with the trial and will be reimbursed by Nemaha County.
District Judge Rick Schreiner agreed to move the trial to Gage County because of logistical issues with the buildings in Nemaha County, including access to restrooms and private meeting rooms for counsel to talk with Keadle and for prosecutors to meet with witnesses.
Keadle, 37, was named as a person of interest after Tyler "Ty” Thomas disappeared early Dec. 3, 2010, while walking back to campus from a party. Her body never was found.
He was said to have been the last person to see her alive. But prosecutors didn’t charge him until 2017.