WILBER, Neb. — A 12-inch hack saw, two gallons of Clorox bleach, a folding tree saw, 30-gallon plastic trash bags and a razor-sharp utility knife with replacement blades.
Those were just some of the items Aubrey Trail and Bailey Boswell purchased just before and just after Sydney Loofe went missing after arranging a date over the Internet with Boswell on Nov. 15, 2017.
That was according to court testimony on Thursday in the murder trial of Trail, a 52-year-old ex-convict.
He is charged along with Boswell, his 25-year-old girlfriend, with first-degree murder in the slaying and dismemberment of Loofe, a 24-year-old Menards clerk from Lincoln.
Her body parts were found Dec. 4 and 5, 2017, scattered along country roads near Edgar, Nebraska, and wrapped tightly in black plastic trash bags. Prosecutors have said that cuts on her body were consistent with a “thin-bladed, fine-toothed saw,” like that of a hack saw. And Trail and Boswell’s landlords have testified that a strong odor of bleach was coming from the basement apartment rented by the pair the day after the date.
A hack saw and the other cutting items were never found, despite extensive searches of roadside ditches, Trail’s vehicle and apartment and motels he and Boswell visited after Loofe’s disappearance.
But jurors, just before they went home for the day, were able to handle a hack saw, tin snip and utility knife identical to the ones purchased by Trail and Boswell.
The main issue in the trial, which is now expected to continue until July 8, is whether Loofe’s slaying was premeditated, which would qualify it for capital punishment, or an accident during a sexual fantasy (as Trail has claimed), which would not.
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The purchases of a hack saw and other items at a Lincoln Home Depot as well as a folding tree saw at a Lincoln antique mall in the hours prior to the Nov. 15 date are part of the prosecution’s case that Trail was making plans for a homicide. Video surveillance tape from the Home Depot and the Aardvark Antique Mall in Lincoln showed Trail and Boswell casually purchasing the items.
The video from the Aardvark Antique Mall shows the pair there about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 15. While there, they purchased a Gerber folding saw — like one used for cutting firewood during a camping trip — a “weed cutter” and two supposedly antique food grinders.
Lorrie Orman, the manager of the antique mall, said the pair had been renting space since June 2017, and occasionally visited the store with “other young ladies.” They had rented four display cases at the mall to sell vintage toys and antique car signs under the name “A&B Antiques.”
When asked if bleach was ever used to clean antiques, Orman said that in her experience “it’s more damaging than helpful.”
Other video showed Boswell purchasing bleach, trash bags, a plastic wastebasket and a large aluminum roasting pan just prior to the Nov. 15 date at a Dollar Store in Wilber, and similar items the morning after the date at the Food Mesto grocery store in town.
Boswell walked visibly faster in the video from the grocery store, taken about 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 16, than in videos prior to the Nov. 15 date. The purchase at the food store was made only a few hours after Trail has told the media he accidentally choked Loofe during the filming of a sexual fantasy in which he says she agreed to participate.
Earlier on Thursday, investigators testified that they conducted tests on at least 16 sex toys, as well as rope, furry handcuffs and a dog leash and collar found in the Wilber apartment rented by Trail and Boswell and the Branson, Missouri, hotel where they were apprehended.
But the FBI couldn’t positively link any of the items with Loofe. While the sex toys generally showed the DNA of three or four people, none could be linked with Loofe, officials testified, because of a lack of genetic material.
Yet investigators said they found other items, including Loofe’s cellphone, credit card and driver’s license, in places that corroborated statements Trail made to law enforcement about tossing Loofe’s cellphone out of a car near the Czech Cemetery west of Wilber. Also found were pieces of an electrical cord. Trail has said he accidentally choked Loofe to death with an electrical cord.
Saline County Sheriff’s Office officials testified that later searches turned up a favorite shirt worn by Loofe and her bra, which had a slice mark on one of the cups.
Lincoln police investigator Robert Hurley, whose analysis of cellphone records led to the discovery of Loofe’s body, testified again, this time outlining how the two cellphones carried by Boswell showed that they had traveled to near Loofe’s home just before noon on Nov. 15, about the time Loofe was leaving for her shift at Menards. Still images from video surveillance at Menards a few minutes later show Trail walking into the store as Loofe walks out to begin her shift at a lumberyard shack outside.
Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson told jurors Thursday that one witness cannot testify until July 8 and that the trial will recess on July 4 and 5.
It’s still unclear whether Trail will testify in his own defense. He was absent from court again Thursday, and has not attended since a suicide attempt — in which he screamed out and slashed himself in the neck with a small blade — on Monday.