Bailey Boswell found guilty

Sydney Loofe’s family wiped tears from their eyes as the verdict was read.

After just over three hours of deliberation, the jury found Bailey Boswell guilty on all three counts — first-degree murder, criminal conspiracy to commit murder and improper disposal of human remains — in Loofe’s 2017 death. 

The case was submitted to the jury Wednesday at 9:11 a.m. and shortly after 12:20 p.m., the judge was notified they had reached a decision.

A jury of eight men and four women heard testimony for more than two weeks and viewed several hundreds pieces of evidence, including gruesome photos of her dismembered remains, before reaching their verdict in Dawson County District Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Boswell, 26, showed little emotion and hung her head as the verdicts were read. She is the second person to be convicted in connection with Loofe’s death. Her co-defendant, Aubrey Trail, was convicted in less than three hours in Saline County last year. He awaits a December hearing on whether or not he will get the death penalty.

Boswell’s sentencing date has not been set at this time.

On Wednesday, the presiding juror confirmed Boswell’s guilty verdicts read by the district clerk. Judge Vicky Johnson asked defense attorney, Todd Lancaster, if he wished for the jury to be polled and he did. The judge asked each juror, “Is this your verdict?” to which all 12 responded, one by one, “Yes.”

After the trial, Lancaster declined to comment on the case.

On the other hand, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office said they were “pleased with the determination of the jury.”

The Attorney General’s office thanked the law enforcement agencies “for their thorough investigation, professionalism, and ongoing support,” including the FBI, Lincoln Police Department, Saline County Sheriff, Saline County Attorney, Clay County Sheriff and the Nebraska State Patrol. 

“We once again offer our sympathy to the Loofe family, with our hope the justice system provides some measure of condolement to them for their loss of their daughter Sydney.”

 

Jury instructions

Judge Vicky Johnson started Wednesday’s proceedings by giving instructions to jury members in Dawson County District Court. 

She spent 37 minutes reading the 20 detailed instructions. Following the instructions, the judge dismissed the three alternate jurors, ultimately creating a jury of eight men and four women. The jurors will be sequestered and given as much time as needed to reach their verdict.

Boswell has been charged with murder in the first degree, improper disposal of human skeletal remains and conspiracy to commit murder. The judge said the jury must decide if the state has met the material evidence for each of the counts.

Verdict choices available to the jury include:

Murder in the first degree —

• guilty of murder in the first degree

•guilty of murder in the second degree

•guilty of unlawful acts or involuntary manslaughter

•not guilty 

Improper disposal of skeletal remains —

•guilty of improper disposal of skeletal remains

•not guilty

Criminal conspiracy to commit murder —

•guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree

•guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit murder in the second degree

•guilty of criminal conspiracy to commit unlawful acts or involuntary manslaughter

•not guilty

State rests

When the trial began on Tuesday morning, the prosecution called one final witness back to the stand, FBI special agent Mike Maseth.

“We need to tie up some loose ends, so we will be bouncing around a little bit here,” Prosecutor Mike Guinan told Maseth as he wrapped up the state’s murder case against Bailey Boswell.

They went through the phone records, which tracked Boswell and Trail’s movements before, during and after the time of Sydney Loofe’s death. Maseth said the last message Loofe received on her phone was at 8:08 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2017. The text from her mom at 8:40 p.m. did not show “delivered.” The state alleges Loofe was killed in the couple’s Wilber apartment around that time.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 17, 2017, Boswell did a “factory reset” of her phone, Maseth said. While this erases all of the data on the phone, he said officers were still able to retrieve some things from her iCloud.

On his cross examination, defense attorney Todd Lancaster asked Maseth if he was able to determine when Trail and Boswell met. Based on phone records, he said the couple appeared to have met in the spring or summer of 2016 when Boswell lived in an apartment in Missouri and worked at a bar. Before living together in the Wilber apartment, Maseth said they were “jumping around from hotel to hotel together.”

When Guinan redirected by asking if Boswell had ever made phone calls as part of Trail’s coin scam, Lancaster objected.

The prosecution published one final piece of evidence — a phone call between Boswell and LPD investigator Cam Cleland as he conducted his search for Loofe, who was known to be a missing person at the time. 

During the call, the investigator asked her questions regarding Loofe’s whereabouts, but Boswell was elusive, not giving him her real name or where she lived. She claimed she had warrants and had a good job she didn’t want to lose. Cleland told Boswell he didn’t care about all that, only that she was the last person who saw Loofe, but she wasn’t providing him any information.

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of this, because at the end of the day, if you don’t tell me who you are . . . we’re coming for ya.”

After the phone call was played for the jury, Guinan said the state rests its case against Boswell. The prosecution spent two weeks presenting its evidence from more than 40 witnesses.

 

Defense rests

After a morning break Tuesday, jurors weren't immediately brought into the courtroom so Bailey Boswell’s defense attorney could make a motion outside the presence of the jury.

Todd Lancaster moved for a directed verdict, claiming the state failed to prove Boswell’s involvement in the murder of Sydney Loofe, and asked all of the charges against her be dismissed. His motion was denied. 

Once the jury was seated, Lancaster told the judge that "the defense rests its case." The defense called no witnesses on Boswell’s behalf.

Judge Johnson asked the jury when they would like to receive the case, giving them the option of Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning. After the jury replied “Wednesday morning,” the closing arguments began immediately.

 

State’s closing arguments

Bailey Boswell had "murder lust" when she killed and dismembered Sydney Loofe, suggested Prosecutor Mike Guinan during his two hours of closing arguments on Tuesday.

"If nothing else, this was an orgasmic desire to torture and kill," he told the jury. 

Guinan used the state's evidence and a Powerpoint presentation to lay out a timeline leading to Loofe's death and dismemberment.

He pointed out the Nov. 15, 2017 text conversation between Boswell and Katie Brandle in which Boswell states she’s “so busy the next couple days” while she and Trail are inside Home Depot purchasing a hack saw with extra blades, tin snips, a knife with extra blades and drop cloths.

“That’s the night that Sydney Loofe will die,” Guinan said.  

After that, Loofe is dismembered and her body is dumped in Clay County the next day. He said “this is a conspiracy, here’s your evidence.” The merchandise they bought from the antique store on Nov. 15 was later found in their Wilber apartment. None of the “brand new tools” or other items they purchased at Home Depot that day were ever found.

Later that day, Trail “scopes out” Loofe while she’s working at Menards and buys a “big jug of Drano,” which was never found inside the apartment either, the prosecutor recounted. Guinan said the only time Boswell isn’t with Trail that morning is when he goes inside Menards and “she’s sitting out in the parking lot, hiding in the car.” He questioned why Boswell wouldn’t go inside to say hi to Loofe, whom she had been on a date with the previous night and knew was working at Menards at that time.

“Does that make any sense?” Guinan asked. “This all makes a ton of sense if Sydney Loofe is the target to be killed that night.”

After the couple returned to Wilber, Boswell purchased bleach, trash bags and laundry detergent. “She’s got a date coming up that night and this is how she’s getting ready,” the prosecutor said.

The next day, Boswell buys more bleach, more trash bags and more Drano, to which Guinan said, “Which begs the question, how much Drano and how much bleach does one apartment need? Because there were a lot of purchases those couple days.” 

"Premeditation, premeditation, premeditation," he said while detailing the large amounts of bleach and Drano that were purchased by Boswell and Trail.

Guinan suggested to the jury that Loofe was dead within 24 minutes of arriving at the couple’s apartment. “She was pounced upon right after she got into that apartment,” he said.  

The prosecutor said numerous items of evidence found near the dismembered body can be traced back to Boswell and Trail, including a pair of star patterned pants that looked like Boswell’s — with the exception of their discoloration from something like bleach. However, Loofe’s blood had still been identified on them, he said.

The couple thought they had picked the perfect victim. Loofe lived alone, appeared unhappy in her job, had just been visited by her parents — it seemed as if no one would miss her for awhile, Guinan said. In addition, Boswell kept her true identity hidden and she and Loofe didn’t go out in public together or have a drawn out history, so it could’ve been a quick kill that Boswell could’ve easily gotten away with.  

“But they were wrong,” he said. “Sydney did have people who missed her, friends and family that loved her.” 

Guinan said the case became “a race against time and Mother Nature” for law enforcement. 

"Without law enforcement, we don't ever find Sydney Loofe," he said.

The prosecutor closed by asking the jury to return guilty verdicts on all three counts.

“We are not asking because we demand it,” Guinan concluded. “We are asking because the evidence demands it, the facts demand it, and because the state has proven each and every element of the counts; therefore, the law demands it.”

 

Defense’s closing arguments

Bailey Boswell’s attorney told the jury that prosecutors showed them graphic images of Sydney Loofe’s dismembered body to “upset” and “distract” them from the facts.

“Photographs they didn’t have to show you,” Todd Lancaster said during his closing arguments on Tuesday.

Lancaster suggested that if “it’s a close case,” the photos are meant to push jurors “over the edge.” 

Although he agrees that this trial is not all about Boswell’s co-defendant Aubrey Trail, the defense attorney said Trail’s actions still need to be considered. 

“Otherwise, it’s like talking about the Titanic and not talking about the iceberg at all,” Lancaster said.

He went on to say “it’s pretty clear Aubrey Trail was the one who killed Sydney Loofe” and that Boswell was “subservient to Aubrey Trail.” Lancaster said Trail — who’s “not George Clooney” — used vulnerable women, including Boswell, for sex and illegal activity in exchange for money and nice things.  

“That’s why they’re all hanging around this creepy guy,” he said.

Lancaster said Boswell didn’t have the “same intent” as Trail and alleged “this is where the state falls short.” He said Trail was also the one who dismembered Loofe’s body, but the defense attorney didn’t completely dispute Boswell’s charge of improper disposal of human remains.

“She may have been told to ‘Go get stuff, so I can clean up,’” Lancaster suggested.

He likened Trail to “Charles Manson” and other sociopaths who “convince people to do things they normally wouldn’t do” because of threats or manipulation.

 

State’s rebuttal

The prosecution had one last chance to speak to the jury in a rebuttal before the Bailey Boswell trial ended for the day on Tuesday. 

Mike Guinan told the jurors that Boswell was not "meek" or “coerced” as her defense attorney had suggested. Boswell and her co-defendant Aubrey Trail are the "yin and the yang" in this crime, he said.

"She's right there with him through thick and thin," he said. "She wasn't brainwashed. It was the both of them."

The "evolution of Bailey Boswell" showed her becoming a dominatrix and the one who continued to talk of killing, even after other women left, Guinan told the jury. He suggested that Trail and Boswell shared the same "deepest darkest desires."

"They had the same goal. And they achieved it," Guinan said. "None of this gets out of the starting gate without Bailey Boswell. Without her, we don't have a victim."

He dismissed the defense attorney's suggestion that Boswell was victimized and controlled by Trail. 

“We already have a victim in this case,” Guinan said. “Our victim was lured down to Wilber. Our victim was thinned off the herd, she was removed from everything she knew. She was driven down there by Bailey Boswell. She was brought into that apartment. She was attacked. She was killed, strangled to death. She was cut up into 14 pieces and she was dumped on rural county roads in Clay County. We have a victim — our victim’s name is Sydney Loofe. It’s not Bailey Boswell. She’s not the victim in this case, not by a long shot. If not for Bailey Boswell, we wouldn’t have a victim in 14 pieces dumped on the side of the road.”

He showed the jury a photo of Boswell from Tinder that showed her with a filter, giving her puppy dog eyes and ears.

“Let’s look at this from Sydney Loofe’s perspective,” Guinan suggested. “Sydney Loofe’s perspective is that she’s going out with a girl that has puppy dog ears, not lion’s teeth.”

He alluded to an earlier Tinder message between Loofe and Boswell in which Boswell told her, “I don’t play games, trust me, you safe with me.”

“She was asked to put her trust in somebody and she did,” Guinan concluded. “And she paid for it with her life. The person she placed her trust in was Bailey Boswell.”

 

Friday’s testimony

Testimony in the Bailey Boswell trial Friday focused on the Sydney Loofe autopsy findings.

Dr. Michelle Elieff, a forensic pathologist from Physician’s Laboratory Services in Omaha, testified that Loofe's autopsy was performed on Dec. 7, 2017 and showed signs of wrist restraints, strangulation, deep bruising and a torn earlobe where her earring might have been. 

Dr. Elieff said 13 pieces of Loofe’s body were brought to her lab in several bags the day before the autopsy. Although her body was cut into 14 segments, she said the upper left arm was never found.   

Boswell’s attorney objected to the graphic autopsy photos being entered as evidence, but the judge overruled his objection to all but two of the photos. The doctor walked the jury through her findings while using photos taken during the autopsy.   

Ultimately, the pathologist said Loofe’s cause of death was determined to be "homicidal violence, including strangulation," which means "death at the hands of another." Boswell hung her head throughout the testimony, rubbing her temples at times. 

Dr. Elieff added that the cutting instrument used to dismember the body after death was "something with a fine tooth," such as a saw. Several superficial cuts were also found.

She said toxicology tests done on Loofe’s urine and brain tissue showed no signs of marijuana or other illegal drugs, only her prescribed anti-depressant medicine was present.

When the defense attorney cross examined the doctor, he asked if someone would need to have “strong hands” in order to strangle someone to death. 

“Not necessarily,” she replied. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to close off those vessels. You really only need about 11 pounds of pressure, which really isn’t a tremendous amount of strength.”

Judge Johnson told jurors that the “evidence portion” of the trial is expected to wrap up early next week; however they will take Monday off due to the Columbus Day holiday. Once the jury begins deliberations, she said they will be sequestered and can work as long as needed. 

Thursday’s testimony

Two more women who met Bailey Boswell through Tinder testified in the trial on Thursday. 

Ana Golyakova knew Boswell as "Jenna" and Katie Brandle knew her as "Kelsey." Prior testimony has revealed that Sydney Loofe was lured to her death by Boswell, whom Loofe knew as "Audrey" on Tinder.

Golyakova testified that she was more interested in "the business side of things," which included stealing and selling antiques with the couple, although she did participate in an intimate relationship for a time. A recent high school graduate, she said making money was her driving force because she wanted to attend the university. 

She even went on a trip to Pennsylvania with the couple to steal antiques from stores along the way. Golyakova said Boswell used disguises, such as wearing wigs or long sleeves to cover her tattoos, while stealing. 

Talks of witchcraft and special powers were not something she believed in, but she recalled those discussions gradually turning into talks of killing. Golyakova said they told her she could make a lot more money if a video was made of the killing.

When she decided to leave, Golyakova said she was threatened by both of them, but felt "relief" once she was free. 

After answering "I don't remember" several times during the defense's cross examination, she finally told Todd Lancaster, "I paid three psychologists to forget this, sir."

Katie Brandle was the last of the three women to testify. She had the most recent relationship with the couple and even traveled with them for several days leading up to their Nov. 30, 2017 arrest. Although she had gone back home to Omaha, Boswell and Trail were driving her car when authorities caught up to them in Branson, Missouri.

Brandle said she was in a "dominant-submissive" relationship with Boswell, in which Boswell was the dominant. She was also given a weekly allowance. Boswell ultimately asked Brandle, "Would you kill for me?" when she claimed “a stalker girl was blowing up her phone and slashed her tires.” The message she showed her was from someone named Ana.

She said Trail told her Boswell would “finish faster” during one of her sexual punishments if Brandle cried out in pain or talked about torture techniques. During another of her punishments, Brandle said Boswell got angry with Trail for admonishing her because “I was hers to yell at.” Boswell whipped her using “a flogger thing” on another occasion.  

On Nov. 16, 2017, Boswell was supposed to pick up Brandle at her house, but Boswell told her that she and Trail were "exhausted" and her shoulder hurt. The state alleges that Boswell and Trail killed and dismembered Loofe sometime between Nov. 15-16, 2017. The prosecution asked Brandle if she knew what caused Boswell and Trail to be tired, to which she replied, “No.”

The following day, Boswell asked her in a text, “Ready to give me some of that booty?” Later that afternoon, Boswell and Trail picked her up in Trail’s black car. Trail gave her cash to put on a bank card and asked her to check them in at a hotel near Ameristar Casino.

“They were quiet,” Brandle recalled. “It was tense. (Boswell) was more quiet than I was used to.” 

One time, she remembered hearing Boswell in the hotel bathroom, crying or getting sick, but she wasn’t sure which.

On Nov. 19, Trail told her she no longer needed to kill the “stalker girl” because she had proven herself in other ways. Then, they left that hotel, drove Brandle’s car to Grand Island and checked in a Borders Inn and Suites. The couple told her they were going to get some cocaine in Chadron and left her in Grand Island. When they returned, Brandle said they were both wearing snow pants. She said they told her they couldn’t find the cocaine and instead decided to torture and kill someone for money. The next day, the trio decided to find their victim at the University of Nebraska in Kearney, believing that a student left on campus during Thanksgiving break “wouldn’t be missed.”

They drove to Kearney on Nov. 22 where Boswell bought blond hair dye and Brandle got makeup to cover up her freckles, she said. They checked into LaQuinta Inn & Suites in Kearney, but Brandle had a voicemail on her phone from the Lincoln Police Department that caused them to quickly leave. The couple told Brandle to shut off her phone and laptop. After Trail made a few calls on his phone, he tossed it out the window. Initially they started driving down the interstate toward Colorado, but later turned around toward Iowa, she said. Brandle was allowed to call her mom to let her know she was okay and found out her dad was in the hospital. She said they stayed in a Des Moines, Iowa hotel one night before she returned home to Omaha. 

“I was scared for my dad and wanted to go home,” Brandle said.

They “essentially bought” her car, saying she could have the black one they left behind. She said Trail and Boswell dropped her off at Ameristar Casino and left. Brandle was later pulled over by police while driving Trail’s black car.

Brandle testified that she never met Sydney Loofe and was angry when Boswell said she had “met up” with Loofe before she went missing, which was why the police wanted to question her. 

“I was angry because I was under the impression she went on a date with this girl while we were together,” Brandle said. She said Boswell played it off like Trail was the one having a relationship with Loofe, not her.

 

Wednesday’s testimony

Testimony in the Bailey Boswell trial took a wild turn Wednesday as a witness spoke of her time with Boswell and Aubrey Trail and their frequent talks of witchcraft, killing and torture.

Ashley Hills testified that she swiped right on “Jenna,” who she later learned was Bailey Boswell, after seeing a Tinder photo of her on all fours wearing underwear in June or July 2017. Boswell further enticed her with promises of a "sugar daddy" who would pay her bills and give her an allowance. She said she received $200 per week during the time she spent with Boswell and Trail. Her rent and car payments were also paid on occasion. She and Boswell were given money to get their nails done and buy lingerie as well.

“I enjoyed being taken care of,” Hills said.

However, these gifts did come at a price. She had to follow rules such as checking in, staying at their Wilber apartment for a 24-hour period at least once a week, asking permission for everything and never talking to other men. If any of these rules were broken, Hills said she was punished by being choked or hit with a belt.

She testified to having a sexual relationship with Boswell while Trail was in the room. The defense attorney objected to the mention of numerous sex toys used in the bedroom, but the objection was overruled. 

Hills said the couple talked of witchcraft, including “breathing in someone’s last breath” to gain power and become a witch. This was how she could join their coven, of which Boswell was the “queen.” Trail claimed to be a vampire who could fly. Hills was so taken in by the new lifestyle that she believed what she was told in 2017, but said she now has different thoughts on Trail.

“I think he was a psychopath,” she testified in court. 

Hills said there was also frequent talk of torture and killing. In what Trail called Boswell’s “kill bag,” she was shown a sauna suit and hammer.

“I was told I would get my own bag, and after every kill, it would be replenished,” she said.

Hills said she was encouraged to talk about how she would torture someone and Boswell readily shared different ways she would like to use torture.

“She would smile or giggle,” Hills said of Boswell during torture talks. “Her eyes would light up almost.” 

Hills said Boswell and Trail took her to a WalMart in Beatrice and asked her if a woman there should be her first kill. Days later, they explained the woman had left town, so the couple discussed having her kill Ana Golyakova instead — another woman who had joined their group. She said Boswell seemed excited at the possibility, calling Ana “annoying.”

As the time drew near to go through with the killing of Golyakova, Hills said she had a panic attack in a clothing store dressing room and told them she wanted out.

She testified that she never met Sydney Loofe. The first time she even heard Loofe’s name was when police officers showed up at her mom’s house to question her months after she left, Hills said

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