LEXINGTON, Neb. — Jurors at the Bailey Boswell murder trial Friday got their first look at graphic autopsy photographs of the dismembered remains of Sydney Loofe.
Distressed looks and furrowed eyebrows could be seen behind COVID-19 masks on the faces of the jury as they were shown more than two dozen pictures from what a pathologist described as a “traumatic dismemberment.”
Boswell, who is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and improper disposal of a corpse in the 2017 slaying of Loofe, mostly stared into her lap, avoiding a look at the grim pictures. After a morning break, she used a tissue to wipe around her eyes.
Boswell, a 26-year-old native of Leon, Iowa, faces the possibility of the death penalty if found guilty of first-degree murder. She could become the first woman sent to death row in the state.
Her 53-year-old boyfriend, Aubrey Trail, was found guilty of first-degree murder a year ago and will find out in December if he's sentenced to death or life in prison.
The autopsy did produce some interesting testimony.
Dr. Michelle Elieff, a forensic pathologist from Omaha who performed the autopsy, said that one of Loofe’s earlobes had been torn, where her earring would have been.
Elieff testified that the injury occurred at or near the time of her death — perimortem, it’s called. The injury, the doctor testified, could have occurred “minutes to hours before death.”
Any kind of pre-death injuries would match up with the prosecution’s case, which is that Boswell and Trail had talked frequently about torturing and killing someone, either to make money by making a video, or as part of their talk about witchcraft and gaining “powers” from a killing.
The autopsy, Elieff said, also revealed bruises at the top of Loofe’s skull and in her inner thigh, as well as a pattern of scratch marks across her torso, as if someone had “dragged” a saw across her skin. The bruises were recent, though she said the drag marks probably occurred postmortem.
Contusions on her wrists suggested that she was restrained, the pathologist said, and there were also “scuffs” on her upper back. There was clear evidence of strangulation, the pathologist said, from bruising on the neck.
The body was segmented into 13 pieces, Dr. Elieff said, and there were clear saw marks on the bones and some cuts could have been made by “heavy tin snips.”
Earlier in the trial, video surveillance and receipts from a Lincoln Home Depot store showed that Boswell and Trail, purchased a hack saw, saw blades and tin snips just hours before Boswell met Loofe for their last date, on Nov. 15, 2017.
Boswell’s lead attorney, Todd Lancaster of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy, objected often to the autopsy photos, questioning their relevance and whether they duplicated other evidence.
He asked the pathologist if someone would need “strong hands” to strangle a person.
Not necessarily, Elieff responded. “It requires about 11 pounds of pressure, which isn’t a tremendous amount of strength,” she said.
Later, Lancaster asked Elieff if, in her opinion, Loofe had been sexually assaulted. The doctor said that while there were no external injuries that would suggest that, there was some bleeding detected in her vagina that could have come from sexual intercourse, from something being inserted, or from the use of a tampon.
Under more questioning by Lancaster, Elieff said there wasn’t any evidence that Loofe was menstruating at the time of her death.
The pathologist’s report said the cause of death was “homicidal violence including strangulation.”
At his trial last year, Trail, an ex-convict from Tennessee, testified that Loofe died accidentally after he choked her with an electrical cord during sex involving himself, Boswell and Loofe.
Outside the courtroom, in an email from prison to reporters on Thursday, Trail said that he had “lied my ass off” in the testimony and in his past statements to law enforcement, but now is willing to tell the truth. He said that he has offered to tell "exactly what happened" to Loofe if prosecutors will drop the death penalty against Boswell.
Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, said Friday it would be inappropriate to comment while Boswell’s trial is underway.
“It is the position of our office he is attempting to interfere with the current trial by using the media,” Gage said.
Ben Murray, Trail’s attorney, said Friday morning he could not comment.
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