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Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

She’ll live, in prison: Nebraska woman who faced possible death sentence gets life

Bailey Boswell and her boyfriend killed and dismembered Sydney Loofe, leaving her body in garbage bags strewn along roads in rural Nebraska.

WILBER, Neb. (CN) — Bailey Boswell, convicted of the sadistic 2017 slaying and dismemberment of a Menards cashier, could have been the first woman in Nebraska sentenced to death.

Instead, the-27-year-old former high school track star convicted of first-degree murder in the killing of Sydney Loofe, 24, will likely spend the rest of her life in prison, following a decision by a three-judge panel announced Monday morning during proceedings at the Saline County Courthouse.

Boswell and her onetime boyfriend Aubrey Trail, 55, murdered Loofe and left her body in garbage bags strewn along roadways in rural Nebraska. A judge sentenced Trail to death this past June.

Boswell too had faced the death penalty. Two of the judges in the penalty phase, Vicky Johnson and Darla Ideus, decided there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Boswell’s role in the murder was exceptionally depraved, a necessary finding under Nebraska law for a death sentence.

But Judge Peter Bataillon decided there was not enough evidence. A unanimous decision being required, Boswell was instead sentenced to life.

As for a split ruling, "it’s not unheard of," said Todd Lancaster with the Nebraska Commission for Public Advocacy, one of the attorneys who defended Boswell. He noted he has been involved in previous cases where this has occurred. "It obviously doesn’t happen every time."

Bataillon made a brief statement in court about his decision, telling the roughly 50 people in the courtroom he could not find that the state met its burden of proof in establishing that the slaying demonstrated exceptional depravity by ordinary standards of morality and intelligence.

“Nothing in this dissention should be understood to diminish senselessness of the murder of Sydney Loofe and the great pain this has caused her family and friends,” he said. “However, because I could not find that the state met its burden of poof as to the aggravating circumstances, I hereby dissent.“

The family of Sydney Loofe (from left) sister MacKenzie, mother Susie, and father George listen as Bailey Boswell is sentenced to life in prison for the 2017 murder of Sydney Loofe, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, at the Saline County Courthouse. (Justin Wan/Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, via pool)

Judge Johnson, before announcing the decision, recited the details of the case and the facts and precedents that led her and Judge Ideus to opt for the death penalty. This went on for more than an hour, with details that were jolting even for those who had never met Loofe.

Boswell had moved into a basement apartment with Trail in June 2017. In the months that followed, the pair began relationships with three women they met on the dating app Tinder, some of whom testified at trial.

"Trail spun a tall tale stolen from a Stephen King novel of his ability to gain power from breathing in the last breath of a murdered person," Johnson said, recounting one of the women's statements.

Another woman Boswell and Trail met shortly before meeting Loofe testified that "during sex, (the woman) was punished and there were discussions of elevating Boswell’s excitement through torture," Johnson said.

Boswell met Loofe on Tinder in Lincoln, the state capital about 35 miles northeast of Wilber, in November 2017. On their first date, they drove around Lincoln and smoked marijuana.

Then Trail surveilled Loofe at work at Menards and, after she left, he purchased several items — a hacksaw, blades, roasting pans, drain clog remover and bleach.

“The items were not purchased to engage in sexual behavior,” Johnson said.

On their second date, Boswell lured her Loofe to the basement apartment in Wilber where Trail killed her. The couple selected Loofe, in part, because she was from Neligh, a city in north-central Nebraska more than 150 miles away, and her family might not notice her absence right away.

But they did notice and reported her missing. Investigators identified Boswell and Trail as suspects. Both denied their involvement in a bizarre video posted online.

Eventually, a Lincoln police investigator tracked the phones of Boswell, Trail and Loofe to Clay County, in south-central Nebraska roughly 60 miles west of Wilber, where Loofe’s remains were found in various locations. Investigators caught up to Trail and Boswell in Branson, Missouri, a couple of weeks later.

Despite an autopsy, the medical examiner could not determine Loofe's cause of death. A number of her internal organs have never been found and it is not known what happened to them. There were multiple cuts all over her recovered body parts.

A jury convicted Trail of murder in 2019. At sentencing, Trail said he had tied up Loofe and strangled her with an electric cord because she “freaked out” when he told her about his life of defrauding antique dealers and group sex.

During Monday’s proceedings, Boswell wore orange jail garb, short sleeves revealing skinny tattooed arms, her wrists and ankles shackled, clanking as she was led in and out. This was despite her wishes to wear civilian clothes. Johnson declined that request.

Boswell sat stone-faced through the hearing. At one point she removed her glasses and wiped her eyes.

Family and friends of Loofe, many of whom wore purple T-shirts that said "In Memory of Sydney Loofe" in white letters, left the courthouse Monday without speaking to reporters.

Officers returned Boswell to the Saline County Jail in Wilber, where she has been confined since being returned from Missouri. She will be transferred to the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women in York.

Lancaster, Boswell's defense attorney, said to expect an appeal, citing concerns with some of Trail's statements admitted at Boswell’s trial.

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Categories / Criminal, Trials

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