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Before her first date with Bailey Boswell, Sydney Loofe asked: 'Just going to be me and you, right?'

WILBER, Neb. — Just before Sydney Loofe went on her first Internet-arranged date with a woman named “Audrey” on Nov. 14, 2017, she texted a cautionary question.

“Just going to be me and you, right?” she asked via the dating app Tinder.

“OK. Yes. Of course,” responded Audrey.

“Audrey” turned out to be Bailey Boswell, the girlfriend of Aubrey Trail.

That’s according to testimony Wednesday in Trail’s trial, which will continue next week.

Trail, 52, and Boswell, 25, are charged with first-degree murder in the slaying and dismemberment of Loofe, who disappeared on Nov. 16, 2017, following a second date with Boswell arranged over Tinder. Trail and Boswell face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Loofe’s first date with Boswell, on Nov. 14, involved only them. But a second date, the next night, ended up at an apartment in Wilber shared by Boswell and Trail. And, according to Trail’s statements, Loofe died sometime that night amid a “sexual fantasy” that involved choking.

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Trail, who has served two stints in Nebraska prisons for bad checks and forgery, has claimed that Loofe agreed to participate in the fantasy for $5,000 and died accidentally, when the choking went “too far.”

But prosecutors, during almost three weeks of testimony , have laid out a much more sinister story — that Trail conspired with others to lure a young woman to her death using social media.

On Tuesday, three young women testified that they had met Boswell over Tinder and then were eventually introduced to Boswell’s “sugar daddy,” Aubrey Trail.

The women — whom a judge ordered not be identified in any way to protect their privacy — said they received clothes and gifts and were given allowances of up to $200 a week by Trail to join the group, which he boasted included 12 other “witches.”

But there were rules to follow, the women testified, including participating in group sex with Trail and Boswell; helping them sell, and steal, antiques; and obeying their every wish. That included wearing no clothes in their apartment and accepting punishments — including whippings — if they misbehaved.

The women told jurors that Trail and Boswell spoke more than once about a desire to torture and kill someone so the women could become witches and gain “powers.” One woman said the pair intended to record and sell such a video for $1 million. There also was testimony that Boswell liked to inflict pain during sex.

Whether Loofe was ever given the talk about becoming a “witch” or Trail being a “sugar daddy” is unclear. There has been no testimony during the trial that such information was given to her.

There’s also been no evidence introduced showing that Loofe might have agreed to participate in a dangerous sex act, though Trail’s court-appointed lawyers say Loofe had money troubles at the time, and Trail has said she was informed of her role and agreed to it.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard more testimony about the travels of Trail and Boswell in the days just following Loofe’s disappearance on Nov. 16, 2017.

Trail and Boswell first traveled to Council Bluffs on Nov. 17 after picking up a woman in Omaha who was in a sexual relationship with Boswell.

Video surveillance from the Ameristar Casino showed the trio checking into a Holiday Inn on the casino property.

FBI agent Mike Maseth testified that on Nov. 18, Trail and Boswell left the hotel and traveled through Plattsmouth to Nebraska City, shopping at a Walmart before heading west on Highway 2 toward Lincoln.

Maseth said that about 11:45 a.m. that day, Lincoln police placed a phone call to a “pinger number” (one that is difficult to trace) that Boswell used to arrange dates via Tinder. About the same time, the agent said, data records from her cellphone ended, suggesting that the phone might have been shut off.

The pair then apparently turned back east, stopping at a Shopko in Plattsmouth about 1:20 p.m. before returning to Council Bluffs.

Jurors also heard testimony Wednesday morning from motel clerks in Grand Island and Kearney, where Trail, Boswell and the woman they picked up stayed from Nov. 19 through 22, before returning to Ameristar.

Trail and Boswell, according to earlier testimony, then stayed at motels in Iowa, in Spencer and Ames, before they traveled to Branson, Missouri, where they were apprehended by authorities on Nov. 30.

Loofe’s body was found in several black plastic bags on Dec. 4 and 5, 2017, scattered along gravel roads in rural Clay County, Nebraska.

Testimony in Trail’s trial is scheduled to conclude on Monday or Tuesday, after a four-day break for the Fourth of July holiday. Boswell is scheduled to stand trial in October.

Trail was again not present in court on Wednesday. He has skipped the proceedings since he slashed his neck in court on June 24.

It’s unclear whether he will testify in his own defense.

Notable crime news of 2019

As transcription needs increase, cursive skills are in demand

The seventh-graders from Berkshire Country Day School in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, bend close over a handwritten copy of the Judiciary Act of 1789, expanded large, in the basement of the National Archives.

"Oh, that's an A," one boy says with a flash of insight. "This is, like, really skinny writing."

A girl tries to make out the squiggly handwritten characters on the page: "Smile … by the…sardine?" she reads.

Hmm. It's not very likely the first Congress wrote that.

Leigh Doherty, associate head of the school, looks on. She admits that, even though the private school offers a cursive-writing class, most revert to printing "as soon as they can."

Cursive has gone out of style. To many young people, deciphering the wavy script can seem as relevant as dialing a rotary phone or milking a cow.

For institutions like the National Archives, this poses a very specific problem. The archive is "sitting on 15 billion pieces of paper and parchment," says archivist David Ferriero, and asmuch as 80% of it is in cursive.

With schools today emphasizing keyboarding over handwriting, numerous documents may soon appear as foreign as ancient Sanskrit to most American children.

"We're sacrificing generations of students who won't be able to read our records," says Ferriero.

The Archives, along with a host of other institutions, has a long-term solution: Enlist an army of "citizen archivists" — via a medley of crowdsourcing initiatives, transcribe-a-thons and transcription field days — to type out the nation's mega-trove of handwritten documents for the web. The only sticking point is that declining cursive literacy makes assembling that army a challenge.

In 2011, the Archives launched its Citizen Archivist Dashboard, an online portal where 13,645 people have so far performed some transcription. The Archives also offers learning labs in which visiting students look at a variety of documents, including a 1958 letter that schoolgirls wrote to President Dwight D. Eisenhower asking him not to let the Army cut Elvis Presley's hair, and a ledger kept by Benjamin Franklin.

Last fall, the Library of Congress rolled out an initiative called By the People, a website where volunteers can transcribe items such as the journals of African American leader Mary Church Terrell and letters written to Abraham Lincoln.

When Sarah Gehant, an eighth-grade teacher at Northbrook School in Illinois, showed her students letters written by Civil War veterans who had lost their right arms and were entering a left-handed writing competition, the "kids were like, 'What? This really happened?' " she recalls. Gehant told them: "No one would really know about it unless you transcribe it. Otherwise, it just sits in a box in an archive."

The class worked together to transcribe one document, which culminated in a four-minute debate over a single punctuation mark.

When history teacher Jacqueline Antonovich assigned her class some transcription, students got stuck on certain words. So they put the image on Twitter and got an answer almost immediately from a group called #twitterstorians. It was another great way to crowdsource historical work, she says.

The Smithsonian offers up a quirky collection of papers to transcribe, including such items as the notes of Harvard's 19th and early 20th century "women computers" — scientists who catalogued the stars and made discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. Popular items such as the jokes Phyllis Diller scrawled on index cards were finished off pretty quickly, notes Effie Kapsalis, the Smithsonian's senior digital program officer.

At some point, machines will take over much of the job of transcription. In the meantime, we can take some inspiration from the D.C. middle and high school students who came to the Library of Congress late last year to transcribe a draft of the Gettysburg Address. At first, says Meghan Ferriter, an innovation specialist at the library, the students insisted, " 'We can't read it!' Then they just took off."

Unlicensed midwife charged in death of infant after problems arise during home delivery in Omaha

An unlicensed midwife has been charged with negligent child abuse resulting in death after a baby died following an unsuccessful home delivery in Omaha.

Angela M. Hock, 36, of Riverdale, Nebraska, was booked into the Douglas County Jail on Wednesday. She is awaiting her first court appearance.

In her 25 years working in the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle said she never has had a case in which an unlicensed person has been charged in connection with a home birth that resulted in death.

According to an affidavit filed in Douglas County, Omaha Fire Department paramedics were dispatched to a home near 48th and Spaulding Streets about 9:25 p.m. June 15. They found Hock, who operates Nebraska Birth Keeper, attempting to help 25-year-old Emily Noe deliver a breech baby in the home. Noe was on her hands and knees as another woman held the partially delivered baby, the affidavit said.

The baby girl eventually was delivered by rescue squad personnel en route to the Nebraska Medical Center. She was limp, wasn’t breathing and had no pulse, according to the affidavit. The ambulance crew worked to resuscitate the baby, who was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital and placed on life support.

Dr. Katherine Lessman, who was the obstetrician-gynecologist on call at the hospital when Emily Noe arrived, told police that Noe had told her that she had been in labor for 24 hours. Noe told Lessman that she had known for a couple hours that the baby was breech and that she had been pushing in an attempt to deliver the baby for an hour before 911 was called.

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Lessman said the baby had been without oxygen and, as a result, suffered brain swelling. Lessman said there was a very strong possibility that the baby would die because of the injury, the affidavit said.

The baby girl, named Vera, was pronounced dead June 17.

Noe told police that her water broke about 9 p.m. June 14. Hock arrived about 6 a.m. June 15 to assist in the delivery, the affidavit said. Noe said Hock asked her if she wanted to continue the birth at home and told Noe she had been trained in delivering breech babies. Noe said she decided to continue with the at-home birth.

After 30 minutes or more, Noe told police, the baby was delivered up to her shoulders, and Hock realized that she wouldn’t be able to deliver the baby and advised calling 911.

Michel M. Hueftle also was at the home at the time. She told investigators that she helped Noe in the role of a doula during the birth but did not perform any medical procedures. She said she only assisted Noe with breathing and movement to assist in the birthing process and said she is not paid for her services.

Lessman, the OB-GYN, told investigators that in her medical opinion, the birth was handled negligently, resulting in death of the baby. The death was preventable, Lessman said, had appropriate medical care been provided in a timely fashion.

Hock “placed the child in a situation that endangered her life … and deprived (her) of necessary medical care,” Deputy County Attorney Molly Keane said. “Her actions in doing so resulted in the death of this child.”

Investigators determined that Hock was paid by Noe and her husband, Crayton Noe, “between $3,000 and $4,000” for home birth midwife services, according to the affidavit. Hock’s photo is prominently featured on the Nebraska Birth Keeper website.

Emily Noe declined to comment Wednesday.

Investigators said they confirmed with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services that Hock does not hold any medical or certified nurse midwife license in Nebraska.

The Nebraska Birth Keeper website has several testimonials about Hock’s services, which include home birth, postpartum care and miscarriage and stillbirth support. Her prices are not listed on the website.

According to the website, Hock began her “journey as a birth professional” in 2004 and started attending births as a doula in 2013 “before discovering my calling to help women find their power and ancient wisdom through traditional midwifery.”

She and other “free birth advocates” began Nebraska Birth Keeper in 2017, with women joining by private membership. Hock claimed on her website that through a private membership association, she could perform home births. Beadle, the chief deputy county attorney, said it doesn’t work that way.

“Though I possess knowledge in many birthing techniques, I am a natural undisturbed home birth advocate,” Hock wrote on the website. Hock wrote on the website: “I believe that we were created to birth without intervention and that women possess the God-given wisdom and intuition to birth their babies free from regulation.”

She said on the site that she is married, has four children and lives north of Kearney.

World-Herald staff writer Alia Conley contributed to this report.

Notable crime news of 2019

Grace: Bringing home Uncle Dud 75 years after the WWII pilot saved nine crew mates

The question stayed with Dan Crouchley for most of his life. What happened to Uncle Dud?

He asked it as a child. He asked it as an adult. He asked it so many times and in so many different ways that the question about the handsome World War II pilot he never got to know, the one presumed killed in battle, became more than a question — it became a quest.

This quest would take years of dogged pursuit. It would take the invention of the Internet and the fall of the Iron Curtain. It would take serendipity and unwavering faith that Dan would, someday, discover the answer.

Today, some 75 years and six days after 1st Lt. John Dudley “Dud” Crouchley’s plane went down in the mountains of Bulgaria, that answer is spread out on Dan Crouchley’s dining room table in west Omaha. In photographs and documents, in maps and medals, in pieces of twisted metal and broken Plexiglas is the story of what happened to Uncle Dud.

It’s an American story, on this Independence Day holiday. It’s a story of duty, of purpose, of sacrifice. And it is a story of how the value of a life matters. Still.

* * *

For years, the basic story of what happened to Uncle Dud was straightforward.

In 1942, Uncle Dud joined the U.S. Army Air Forces, as it was called then, and became a pilot. 15th Air Force. 485th Bombardment Group. 828th Bombardment Squadron.


Dan Crouchley searched for the remains of his uncle John Dudley "Dud" Crouchley for 22 years. 

In 1944, Uncle Dud’s bomber went down somewhere over Romania or Bulgaria. His B-24 had been part of a massive bombing mission in Romania that was met with German fighters in the air and Romanian anti-aircraft fire from the ground. Dud’s plane was hit. With Dud at the controls, his nine crew members parachuted out and survived. But neither the aircraft nor the pilot was recovered.

Dud was declared missing. Then dead. He left behind a widow, pregnant with their only child, a son who would never know his father.

1st Lt. John Dudley Crouchley’s name would be added to the tally of 400,000-some U.S. military deaths from World War II. His name would go on a memorial in Italy, where he was based.

His name would be given to his son. His name would be added to a U.S. government list of the missing. It would go on a stained-glass window his parents put up in his memory at their Catholic church.

And his name would be burned into the imagination of a boy whose father also had joined the Air Force, also had become a pilot, also had participated in bombing raids. But Col. Ted Crouchley, unlike big brother Dud, had come home.

When Dan would ask questions, what more could anyone say? Not even his father, Ted, then the base commander at Offutt Air Force Base, knew.

“When I’d say to my dad, ‘What happened to Uncle Dud?’ he wouldn’t answer, quite,” Dan said.

The horrors and sacrifices of war weren’t subjects discussed much then. Families suffered with the understanding that sons went to war and some sons never came back.

The Crouchleys did try to look: Dud’s father traveled to Georgia after the war hoping to learn more from Dud’s surviving co-pilot. Dud’s parents sought help from a Catholic mystic. Neither turned up much.


World War II pilot John Dudley “Dud” Crouchley’s widow, Dottie, with their son, whom she named for the father he would never get to know.

Dan’s grieving widow named her son John Dudley Crouchley III. He went by the nickname “Sandy.”

Sandy once said he’d go to Europe himself and find his dad, though he never did. And then Sandy died of cancer, leaving a daughter and son, John Dudley Crouchley IV.

No one had any answers. Dan got nowhere for a long time.

* * *

In 1992, Col. Crouchley died. Cancer. He was 72. His death prompted Dan to dig into his father’s story and, in so doing, he wondered again about Uncle Dud. His father’s diary offered a road map to the kinds of clues that must still exist about this uncle he never knew. There must be survivor diaries, official military accounts and other records. He began to look.

In 1997, the Internet was a new tool, one that offered to shrink the world and this quest. Dan, by now well into a career as an attorney, found a message board for people connected to B-24 bombers. He typed up the basics about Uncle Dud, the June day in 1944 when his plane presumably crashed and the names of his nine surviving crewmates. Into the void, Dan essentially asked: Anybody know anybody?

Around 2000, Dan heard from a survivor of the same Bulgarian prisoner of war camp where his uncle’s crew had been taken. The camp was called Shumen, and this survivor, from Texas, was researching it. He was sending letters to Bulgarian newspapers. He would keep Dan posted.

In 2004, a Minnesota man, son of the nose gunner on Dud’s crew, called with a big lead. The nose gunner’s son also had been researching the Bulgarian prison camp where his father and Dud’s eight other crewmate had been taken. The Shumen camp. He gave Dan this instruction: Sign up with the U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, now the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. This is the federal agency tasked with helping families of the missing get answers.

Dan joined in 2005 and was assigned a case officer. He started going to family meetings.


This is a piece of a B-24 bomber that crashed in the mountains of Bulgaria in 1944. Detritus could still be found as recently as 2017.

In 2005, the surviving former Bulgarian prisoner of war from Texas told Dan about a man and a book. The man was Stan, a former officer in the communist Bulgarian Army. He worked as a university professor in Bulgaria, spoke fluent English and had special interest in what happened during World War II. Stan told the Texan about a book called “B-17s Over Bulgaria.” In the book were the names of Americans detained at Bulgarian prison camps, including Shumen.

In 2006, Dan was emailing Stan the Bulgarian especially after the nose-gunner’s son from Minnesota sent Dan a list of names of Americans captured in Bulgaria during World War II. In Stan’s book and on this nose-gunner’s son’s list are the names of the nine crewmen who had bailed out of the burning B-24 bomber flown by Dud. And near their names was the name of that crew’s missing pilot, “John D. Krachuli.”


“He calls me at work,” said Dan’s wife, Maureen, who then was administrator of the master’s program in Christian spirituality at Creighton University. “He says, ‘I think I know where he is.’ ”

The book offered eye-popping detail: “Krachuli,” the missing pilot of the downed bomber, was likely buried near the crash site, about 2.5 kilometers, or 1½ miles, southeast of the village of Churen in the Plovdiv Province in the Rhodope Mountains.

This is a geography akin to the Appalachian Mountains. The spot is about 275 miles south of Bucharest, Romania, Dud’s original mission target.

Dan knew. Uncle Dud wasn’t lost anymore.

* * *


Dan Crouchley of Omaha, third from left, stands at the site of his late uncle’s World war II plane crash in Bulgaria during a 2010 visit. With him, to his left, are helpers Stanimir Stanev of Bulgaria and, second from right, the then-U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, James Warlick.

Even such a clue takes time to unearth. Bulgaria is not next door.

Stan the Bulgarian, aka Stanimir Stanev, offered to be Dan’s boots on the ground. In 2007, he went to the tiny village of Churen. Locals knew exactly where the crash site was, and one took him there. Stan walked down a dirt logging road and into the forest for about 100 yards. On the floor he found what was left of Dud’s B-24: pieces of metal and Plexiglas.

“Found it,” Stan relayed to Dan back in Omaha.

In 2010, Dan and Maureen Crouchley left Omaha for Bulgaria to see for themselves. They first attended a special commemoration of World War II dead in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia. They were special guests of the U.S. ambassador there. The ambassador and Stan, among others, then took the couple to that logging road near the village of Churen.

Dan scooped up airplane pieces and put them in his pockets. Then, saying a few words about family and reunion and being American, he dumped a vial of soil from the Nebraska and Rhode Island graves of other Crouchleys. Dud would not be alone out here, in this remote place so far from home.

Everyone cried.

This was a symbolic gesture, but in 2017 the DPAA got to work really proving it. The agency had previously conducted interviews, pored over reports and visited the crash site. With permission from the Bulgarian government, a U.S. recovery team spent seven weeks looking for the remains of 1st Lt. John Dudley Crouchley.

A 22-page report shows the lengths the team went to, with incredible detail about land elevation, soil depth and precise measures of the depressions made in the earth where the B-24’s four engines had hit. The report describes interviews with elderly Bulgarians who recalled seeing the plane go down, burn and be scavenged for scrap metal. One recalled finding a human pelvis and burying that. The report also includes the facts that, although the actual grave might still exist nearby, no intact human remains were found.


Decades after 1st Lt. John Dudley Crouchley's plane crashed in Bulgaria, material such as this fuel booster pump was found.

But the searchers did not come up empty. In addition to airplane parts, they found parachutes and Crouchley’s gold wedding band, inscribed with his wedding date. They found a crucifix that Dan believes had come off his uncle’s rosary beads. And they found “osseous material” from human remains in the soil.

This material was sent to one of only two military labs that match remains to service member identifications. That base was Offutt. And the lab where Uncle Dud’s remains were kept was one building over from where Col. Ted Crouchley’s office had been during his commander years, 1968 to 1971.

Dan Crouchley had given the lab a cheek swab from Dud’s only surviving brother, who since has died.

In 2018, the lab confirmed it. Perfect match. Lt. John Dudley Crouchley was officially found.

In 2019, the Crouchley family buried him. On May 2, Dan and Maureen flew with Uncle Dud’s remains on a commercial flight to Providence, Rhode Island. On the tarmac in Omaha and then in Chicago, where they changed planes, the Southwest Airlines pilots made special announcements about the precious cargo aboard. Peering out their plane windows, Dan and Maureen were amazed to see airline workers standing at attention as the cardboard box containing the remains was moved from one plane to another.


Dan Crouchley of Omaha pays his respects to his late Uncle Dud, 1st Lt. John Dudley Crouchley, whose plane crashed in Bulgaria during World War II.

They were flat-out shocked upon landing in Providence. The local fire department had arranged trucks to spray the plane with a water cannon salute. The box was placed into a casket, covered by an American flag. A military contingent and their Rhode Island relatives, including Uncle Dud’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren, were there to greet him. A procession of police motorcycles led them down an Interstate, closed for the occasion, to a funeral home in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Along the way, it seemed like everyone had stopped to salute the procession and pay tribute. The funeral drew a large crowd. Uncle Dud was laid to rest near his son.

What became immediately clear to Dan was that this quest was no longer personal. It involved people in other states and another country. It involved the U.S. military. It involved all these strangers. It involved ideals about duty and service and homecoming.

“It’s an obligation. You could choose not to do this. Most countries don’t do this,” he said. “It reflects on the values the United States has not to leave anybody behind.”

* * *

Dan Crouchley didn’t just find his uncle.

He found a story.

The story is one of courage. On June 28, 1944, Dud was at the helm of a B-24 that completed its bombing run in Romania, in spite of the German fighters in the air and the Romanian anti-aircraft fire from the ground. Dud was at the helm on the return trip as other B-24s around them took fire and two fell. He was at the helm as his own aircraft was struck. First in one engine, then another engine. Then three of his men were wounded.


For decades, the Crouchley family never knew exactly where 1st Lt. John Dudley Crouchley had died during a World War II battle in Europe. After a long search, they found some of his remains near the village of Churen in Bulgaria.  

He was at the helm as a German fighter swooped in to pick off this wounded giant. He was at the helm, pushing the plane into a sharp nosedive, as he was trained to do, to use force and air to extinguish the fires in two burning engines.

And he was at the helm when the mountains appeared, the ground rose, the autopilot no longer worked and it became obvious what had to be done. Someone had to hold the plane steady so the others could get out. That someone was him.

According to a history compiled by Dan, based on survivor diaries and military records, Dud gave his last order.

“You coming?” hollered out Hays, the co-pilot.

“Yes!” he’d said. “Get the hell out!”

Nine men parachuted to eventual safety. After their release from the prison camp and after the war, they went on to build their lives. There were wives and children and grandchildren whose lives depended on Uncle Dud’s sacrifice. Some 100 of them would not have graced this planet had he not safely gotten his men out.

So, finding Uncle Dud meant finding so much more.

In-flight emergency: An investigation into flight safety at Offutt's 55th Wing