WILBER, Neb. — Jurors in the murder trial of Aubrey Trail got an up close look Wednesday at photographs of the dismembered body of a young woman he is accused of killing as testimony in his trial passed the halfway point.
FBI agent Eli McBride testified that Sydney Loofe’s body was found in 13 different pieces on Dec. 4 and 5, scattered in ditches and wrapped in black plastic trash bags along two gravel roads in rural Clay County.
Only one piece of her body, an upper arm, was not found, according to McBride.
One by one, a handful of photographs of the body parts were viewed by each juror, then passed on to the next juror.
One female juror rocked nervously after viewing the pictures. Others reacted with stern and troubled looks on their faces. There was more than one heavy sigh. A hushed silence fell over the ornate, wood-trimmed courtroom during the viewing.
Loofe’s father and brother, sitting in the front row of the courtroom, bowed their heads and looked to the floor as, only a few feet away, jurors somberly scanned the graphic pictures. Loofe’s mother and sister did not attend that portion of the testimony Wednesday morning.
For the second day in a row, Trail was not in court. He’s been absent since an apparent suicide attempt in the courtroom Monday, when he shouted out that his girlfriend and co-defendant was innocent and began slashing himself in the neck with a small blade of some kind.
Whether Trail will return to court, or testify on his own behalf, is unclear. Testimony is scheduled through July 3.
Trail, 52, and the girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, 25, are charged with first-degree murder in the slaying and dismemberment of Loofe, a 24-year-old store clerk from Lincoln. Loofe disappeared on Nov. 16, 2017, after arranging a date over the Internet with Boswell, whose trial is scheduled for October. Both Trail and Boswell face the possibility of the death penalty if convicted on that charge.
The main issue at the current trial is whether Trail conspired to kill a young woman, as prosecutors maintain, or Loofe’s death was an accidental strangulation, during a purported filming of a sexual fantasy, as Trail has claimed. Premeditated murder can qualify for capital punishment; slayings that are accidental do not.
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McBride testified Wednesday that searches of ditches along the country roads north of Edgar, Nebraska, also turned up a pink sex toy (a dildo), as well as plastic sheeting smeared with blood, a pink dog leash, a Gold’s Gym “sauna suit” (a plastic suit used to enhance weight loss) and wads of duct tape.
The sauna suit, the FBI agent said, had been torn or cut at the crotch.
He said that a white fleece jacket found in one ditch matched one Loofe had been pictured wearing in a post on the social media photo-sharing site Instagram.
McBride also testified that just after the discovery of Loofe’s body, FBI agents conducted another search of the Wilber apartment shared by Trail and Boswell, looking for items that might have been used to cut up a body. Tin snips and a hatchet were found, along with a package for a sauna suit, a dog collar, more sex toys and a book entitled “The Human Body Atlas.”
According to court records, Trail and Boswell were captured on store surveillance video at a Lincoln Home Depot purchasing tools that could be used to cut up a body, just hours before the fateful date with Boswell. But testimony Wednesday indicated that searches — which included removing the ceiling tiles of the pair’s apartment and disassembling Trail’s Ford 500 sedan — failed to find a hacksaw or other such tools.
Later in the day, an FBI fingerprint expert testified that the only fingerprints found on “The Human Body Atlas” were from a woman who prosecutors have said hung out with Trail and Boswell. That woman, who has not been charged with any crime, is scheduled to testify next week.
The woman's identity, which was revealed in open court June 26, was ordered not to be published by Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson on July 2. Before the trial, Johnson had ordered that photographs and video not be broadcast of the woman, and two others, to protect their privacy.
In that May 22 order, the judge also added: “This does not restrict the media from otherwise reporting on their testimony." An earlier version of this story identified the woman. On July 2, however, the judge imposed the additional restrictions on naming them.
Another book confiscated during that search, “United States Coins 2013,” contained only fingerprints of Trail and Boswell. In a Facebook video posted after Loofe went missing, Trail had boasted that the pair was making over $100,000 a year by trading in antiques. But the couple was also convicted of scamming $400,000 from a Kansas couple is a scheme to buy a rare, antique coin overseas.
Law enforcement officials had testified on Tuesday that, according to cellphone data from Boswell’s two cellphones, the pair most likely took a 3-hour, 150-mile round trip from their Wilber apartment to the lonely roads near Edgar, Nebraska, on Nov. 16.
It appeared that they drove west from Wilber, eventually leaving Nebraska Highway 74 and going north on County Road S for a couple of miles. Then the cellphone tracking suggested a U-turn and a drive southward for a handful of miles, before the cellphone records showed a turn eastward on County Road 305. More than 20 miles of country roads were searched.
Evidence was found at 17 sites along County Road S and County Road 305, scattered in roadside ditches in tightly tied and sometimes double-bagged black plastic bags. At some of the scenes, animals were thought to have pulled body parts from the bags, with some body parts found a few feet away from the bags.
Later, during a drive on the route suspected to have been taken by Trail and Boswell, Nebraska State Patrol investigators found more items, tossed in ditches along Nebraska Highways 41 and 15. Among the discoveries: a man’s shirt and underwear, both bleach-stained, as well as a boot and a green rubber dish-washing glove. The landlords of the apartment rented by Trail and Boswell have testified to a strong smell of bleach on Nov. 16, the day after the date between Loofe and Boswell.
Repeatedly on Tuesday and Wednesday, Trail’s court-appointed attorneys objected to the showing of the photos of the body parts, arguing that they were excessively prejudicial. Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson denied the objections, and allowed the photos to be shown to the jury, although prosecutors handed them to jurors rather than displaying them on big-screen television monitors in the courtroom, where spectators could have seen them.