WILBER, Neb. — Jurors saw and heard on Monday the grisly details of how Sydney Loofe’s body was cut into pieces as the first-degree murder trial of Aubrey Trail entered its fourth week.
Loofe’s body was cut into 14 pieces, likely by two or three different instruments, according to separate testimony by two forensic experts. Her body showed signs that she struggled at the time of her death, one said.
Dr. Michelle Elieff, a forensic pathologist from Omaha, said that her examination of Loofe’s body revealed signs that she had been restrained at her wrists, had a torn earlobe and was bruised at the back of her head and inner thigh.
But could those signs of struggle also have been consistent with “rough, consensual sex”? asked one of Trail’s court-appointed attorneys, Joe Murray.
“Yes,” Elieff responded.
Later on Monday, a forensic anthropologist from Mississippi, Steven Symes, told jurors that a saw, a knife and a scissors-like tool were used to dismember the body.
Symes also said the dismemberment was unusual in the number of “false starts” with a saw before bones were cut. He said his analysis showed that a handsaw, a thin-bladed hacksaw, was used and that it had “close” to 24 teeth per inch.
That matches the teeth count on a saw purchased by Trail and his girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, in the hours just before Boswell met Loofe for a date arranged via the Internet dating app Tinder.
Testimony in the trial is expected to continue through Tuesday.
Trail, 52, and Boswell, 25, are charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Loofe, a 24-year-old cashier at Menards in Lincoln.
Boswell, according to prior testimony, connected with Loofe via Tinder for a date on Nov. 15, 2017. Loofe was reported missing the next day.
Trail and Boswell, who is also charged with first-degree murder, both face the possibility of the death penalty if found guilty. Boswell is scheduled to stand trial in October.
Elieff said her autopsy occurred on Dec. 7, 2017, a couple of days after Loofe’s remains were found scattered along gravel roads in rural Clay County, just north of Edgar.
Photographs Elieff took of the dismembered body were shown to jurors, but not to the audience, as big-screen TVs aimed at the gallery were shut off on Monday. A couple of jurors looked away after glancing at the photos on their screen. Many had grim facial expressions as Elieff explained the bruising and scratches she found on Loofe’s body, which lacked most of its internal organs.
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Loofe’s mother and sister left the courtroom when the autopsy and dismemberment testimony was presented. Her father, though, remained in the front row for most of it, though he sometimes bowed his head when testimony turned grim.
Trail again chose not to attend the court proceedings, as he has since slashing his neck in front of jurors on June 24. It was not clear whether he would testify in his own defense on Tuesday, when his attorneys will present their evidence.
Trail’s defense attorneys are not contesting that he cut up the body — Trail pleaded guilty to a charge of improper disposal of human remains just before the trial’s start. But they lodged a standing objection to the showing of the photographs.
The pathologist said that her examination concluded that Loofe died of suffocation, but she said she could not conclude whether it happened manually (by the use of someone’s hands) or via the use of a belt or other ligature.
Most of Loofe’s internal organs were missing, Elieff said, and there was little blood left in the body.
Is the lack of blood consistent with someone draining the blood from the body? asked one of the prosecutors, Sandra Allen of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office.
Elieff said the lack of blood could be caused by a lot of factors.
Under questioning by Murray, the doctor also said it could not be determined whether the lack of internal organs was the result of animals biting into the body parts after they were deposited along the road or the result of the organs having been intentionally removed. Both the pathologist and Symes said there were numerous signs of animal predation on the body parts.
Murray also asked if the autopsy could determine whether Loofe was killed intentionally or accidentally.
No, that could not be determined, Elieff said.
Symes, who said he specializes in cases of body dismemberment, examined Loofe’s remains on Dec. 13, 2017.
He used a model of a skeleton at times Monday to show jurors how Loofe’s body was cut up. He said it appeared, from the characteristics of the cuts, that a knife was used to remove flesh and then a saw was used to cut through the bones, with several false-start cuts. A scissors-like tool, like tinsnips, was used on the rib area, he said.
Symes, under questioning by Trail’s attorney, said he could not tell whether the dismemberment was done by one person or more than one person, or if a brand-new saw blade was used.
Trail has maintained that Loofe died accidentally, as he choked her during the filming of a sexual fantasy in which she willingly agreed to play a role in exchange for $5,000.
But prosecutors tell a much darker tale — that Trail conspired, along with Boswell, for weeks to lure a young woman using social media for the purpose of homicide.
Prior testimony, from three women who hung out and traveled with Trail and Boswell, said the duo claimed to have a harem of a dozen “witches” who joined them in group sex and stealing antiques. They said Trail and Boswell told them that to truly become a witch, they had to kill someone.
Earlier Monday, FBI agent Mike Maseth testified that Boswell had texted another woman whom she met via Tinder on Nov. 16, 2017, that “she would be busy for the next couple of days.”
Maseth said the text was sent about the same time that Boswell and Trail were purchasing tools — including a heavy-duty hacksaw with 24 teeth per inch and a pair of tinsnips — at a Lincoln Home Depot store.
Such a hacksaw was not found with the body or in searches of the apartment or vehicles used by Trail and Boswell. But jurors were shown an identical saw, purchased by law enforcement later, again on Monday.