LINCOLN — Joshua Keadle has asked a judge to toss out a charge of first-degree murder in connection with the 2010 disappearance of a Peru State College student from Omaha.

Keadle filed a “plea in abatement” that argues that he should not stand trial in the death of Tyler Thomas, 19, who disappeared just before the end of her first semester at the small college along the Missouri River.

Although two judges have ruled that Thomas is dead, her remains have not been found.

At a March 1 preliminary hearing, the prosecution offered insufficient evidence that Thomas was murdered or that Keadle is the person responsible for her death, said defense attorney Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy. The filing challenges the decision to bind the case over for trial.

Nemaha County District Judge Ricky Schreiner took the matter under advisement after a brief hearing Monday at the Johnson County Courthouse in Tecumseh. The judge gave Assistant Attorney General Doug Warner until April 27 to file a written response to Keadle’s challenge.

The judge will now read hundreds of pages of transcripts from the daylong preliminary hearing.

A law enforcement investigator testified that Keadle told authorities that he left Thomas alive near a remote boat ramp on the Missouri River. Keadle said that they engaged in consensual sex and that Thomas threatened to accuse him of raping her after he refused to give her a ride to Omaha.

Other investigators provided accounts from witnesses who were with Keadle when he saw Thomas standing outside her dormitory shortly before she disappeared. One friend said Thomas so disliked Keadle that she would never have accepted a ride from him.

Keadle’s attorney argued that the evidence offered during the preliminary hearing could also support the conclusion that Thomas was intoxicated from attending parties earlier in the evening and fell into the Missouri River.

Keadle, 36, is serving 15 to 20 years in prison for an unrelated sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in Dodge County. He becomes eligible for parole next year and is scheduled for mandatory release in 2021.

Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.