Black duct tape. A breaker bar. Energy drinks.
Those were the items in what Jeremiah Connelly called a “kidnapper’s kit” that he went to fetch before he abducted, sexually assaulted and killed a woman in September, an Omaha police detective testified Wednesday.
A judge ordered Connelly, 39, to stand trial on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the slaying of 22-year-old Jeanna Wilcoxen, a mother of one.
Detective David Preston Jr. detailed Connelly’s long-ranging conversation with police about the slaying, including Connelly’s comments directing detectives to Wilcoxen’s body in Fremont and at least six locations where he had scattered her personal items and his phone, and where he had burned his van.
Connelly seemed intent on covering his tracks and keeping the slaying a secret until he told police nearly every detail five days later.
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Connelly had first encountered police Sept. 21 when officers arrested him after he allegedly was recklessly driving a stolen vehicle.
In an interview with officers from the auto theft unit, Connelly asked police why they cared about a stolen car when there was a dead woman in Fremont.
Preston, from the homicide unit, was called in to continue the interview with Connelly.
Connelly told Preston he met Wilcoxen on Sept. 15 in South Omaha. They struck up a conversation and continued hanging out that night, then texted the next day.
Connelly was under the impression that Wilcoxen was going to move in with him, Preston said, but she later changed her mind.
Connelly met Wilcoxen at Super Laundry near 36th and Q Streets on Sept. 16 and helped her with her laundry. He told her he was going home for the night, Preston said, and then went to get his “kidnapper’s kit.”
He found Wilcoxen on a swing at Christie Heights Park, approached her from behind and abducted her.
They wrestled for a little bit in the playground sand, but he told Preston he was able to overpower her and bind her arms and legs with tape.
Video surveillance from a nearby restaurant showed that Connelly put her over his shoulder and put her in the van, Preston said.
Connelly told police that he then drove to 53rd and U Streets. She was still bound. He removed her clothes — to prevent her from escaping, he said — and then sexually assaulted her. Preston said Connelly told him she had pleaded with Connelly and said she just wanted to cuddle.
Afterward, Preston said, Connelly took the duct tape and began wrapping it around her face. She struggled, Connelly told police, but he choked her with one hand until she stopped breathing.
He checked her heartbeat and, to make sure she was dead, held a lighter flame to her skin to see if she reacted to it, Preston said. She didn’t.
Connelly told police that he killed Wilcoxen to stop her from abusing drugs.
Connelly drove around Omaha and to Council Bluffs and as far away as Columbus, Nebraska, to ditch Wilcoxen’s body, his cellphone and personal items.
He left the body in an overgrown area near Ridge Road and County Road T in Fremont, Preston said.
Days later, her body was found with the hands and feet still bound.
Authorities found the burned van on Sept. 17, the day after the abduction, at 36th Avenue and I Street, when someone called 911 to report a vehicle fire. The breaker bar was inside, along with pornographic materials, Preston said.
Connelly led Preston and other officers to the various sites where he dumped evidence of the crime. In an alleyway near 34th and K Streets, he pointed out Wilcoxen’s purse, toys for her son, makeup and an electronic tablet.
Connelly had been sentenced to 15 to 22 years after a crime spree in 2005 in which he attempted to kidnap a female jogger, set fire to a vehicle, robbed a gas station and tried to punch a judge.
He was released on parole in June by the Nebraska Board of Parole, even though he did not complete a violence-reduction program. He would have been automatically released Nov. 23.
Connelly returned to the Parole Board in October for a violation hearing after he was arrested on suspicion of Wilcoxen’s killing. He launched into a 3-minute monologue in which he told board members how his life derailed after getting out of prison.
“I tried religion, I tried being good,” he said on Oct. 9. “Sooner or later ... the old me surfaced.”
William Way, Wilcoxen’s father, attended Wednesday’s hearing. His hands trembled and he shook his head as he saw Connelly, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, enter the partitioned courtroom.
Way rushed out of the courtroom as Preston testified about the playground park attack.
“I hate him,” he said before the hearing.