WILBER, Neb. — An unspecified health problem prevented accused murderer Aubrey Trail from attending a court hearing on Friday, raising questions about whether his trial will begin as scheduled on June 17.

Trail, 52, has suffered a stroke and two heart attacks since he was arrested, along with a girlfriend, in connection with the slaying of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe in 2017. He now uses a walker.

But on Friday, Saline County deputies declined to transport Trail from a state prison facility because of a health problem, according to one of his court-appointed attorneys, Joe Murray.

Trail has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, saying that Loofe was killed accidentally. He recently asked to change his plea on a lesser charge, improper disposal of human remains, to guilty. But consideration of that was postponed because of his absence in court on Friday.

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Murray said he did not know the nature of the health problem other than “something happened this morning” to prevent his transport from the state Diagnostic and Evaluation Center. He added that Trail was upset about not being able to attend the court hearing on Friday afternoon.

Calls to the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, seeking more information, were not immediately returned on Friday evening.

Trail has been housed at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center since January because the state facility has a nursing home-like unit that can handle elderly and disabled inmates.

On Friday, District Judge Vicky Johnson took under advisement Trail’s request that he remain housed at the state facility during the trial, which is expected to last at least three weeks in Wilber, which is about 40 miles southwest of Lincoln.

Trail’s attorney said he believed that Trail’s health issue was temporary and the trial will begin as planned. But Murray added that a discussion about whether Trail could “attend” his trial via a video hookup may need to be held.

Trail is also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in the case; he faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted on the first-degree murder charge.

Loofe, 24, disappeared after arranging a date via Tinder with Trail’s girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, in November 2017. Loofe’s body was found three weeks later, scattered about a rural area near Edgar, Nebraska, about an hour’s drive west of where Trail and Boswell lived in an apartment in Wilber.

Trail, in phone calls with reporters, had claimed that he was responsible for killing Loofe, saying it was an accidental strangling during a sexual role-playing fantasy and not a premeditated slaying.

He has told The World-Herald that he deserves to die for what he did but that Boswell, now 25, should not face the death penalty.

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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