Trail waives jury hearing Thursday, death penalty decision goes to three-judge panel
WILBER - Aubrey Trail has waived his right to a jury trial for an aggravated circumstances hearing . Now, a three-judge panel will deliberate if this case is heinous enough for a death sentence.
Saline County District Judge Vicky Johnson will preside over the panel.
The alternative to the death sentence is life in prison. Trail's defense attorneys, Ben and Joe Murray, said Thursday it could be "months" before they know if Trail will be sentenced to death. They will continue to represent him throughout those deliberations.
The Murrays said they encouraged Trail to waive a jury trial for the aggravated circumstances hearing.
"We're not judging the efforts of this jury, but we didn't need them making anymore decisions in this case," Joe Murray said. "That's why we decided to waive the hearing."
"With the speed that the jury used to make their decision, we thought it'd be better to put this in front of the judges."
At the Saline County Courthouse Thursday morning, Judge Johnson excused the 12-person jury, thanking them for their service during the trial that lasted four weeks.
On Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m., Trail was found guilty of first degree murder, and conspiracy to commit murder in the death and dismemberment of Lincoln store clerk Sydney Loofe.
The prosecution described Loofe’s death as a planned, targeted killing.
"This was a premeditated murder gone right," state prosecutor Michael Guinin said. "This was a conspiracy to commit murder executed to a T...(Loofe's) phone shut off in Wilber, (Trail's) car left the apartment the next day, and only made one trip to Clay County. And what was found there? Loofe's dismembered body."
One juror, identified as Chris, believed the state's evidence spoke for itself when finding Trail's guilt.
"It was common sense," he said when asked about the verdict. "All the evidence was there, so. I think the state pretty much proved themselves to be right. Everyone (on the jury) was pretty much on the same page."
Chris also pointed to Trail's multiple story changes as reason to not believe his story.
"Whenever that whole incident happened, (Trail) should have told police right away and not just hide it."
Chris says "the cutting" and outburst on June 24, and Trail's testimony on Tuesday, were the most memorable moments.
"You gotta do what you gotta do when you're told to disregard (the cutting)," Chris said. "You have to keep your integrity...it's crazy what he did."
The defense maintained Trail killed Loofe accidentally during sexual activity involving strangling.
"Mr. Trail has admitted guilt to improper disposal," defense attorney Joe Murray said Wednesday. "He is not guilty on the other charges (murder, conspiracy). It cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Going back to the cutting, The Murrays confirmed Thursday that Trail had a "part of a razor blade wrapped in a band-aid" the day he slashed his neck. They believe it was stored in the collar of his shirt. Trail's attorneys don't know how it got in, because authorities had been changing Trail daily in Lincoln.
Still, after it happened, the Murrays were very concerned about how that event would affect the jury's decision going forward.
"We were very concerned," Joe Murray admitted.
"Once the throat slash happened, that just seemed like something we weren't going to be able to recover from," Ben agreed. "That might have been a turning point we couldn't get around. There's so much publicity surrounding the case, and I understand the interest. But, there's so much publicity and it's 99% negative, so I can understand why the verdict came out the way it did."
Joe has practiced law for over 40 years. He's represented murderers before, including a "very nice man who went into a hospital and shot his wife, because she was dying."
"That got a lot of play, but nothing like this," he said. "This was just unreal. We wanted a different outcome, but we're glad it's over."
Trail's girlfriend, Bailey Boswell, faces the same charges as Trail, and will be tried in September. Her attorney, Todd Lancaster, has filed a request to move Boswell's trial from Wilber, due to the concern of finding another impartial jury in the area.
If that request is granted, Boswell's trial would happen in a county with similar demographics. No decision on the location of that trial has been made yet.
To look back at all of our coverage of this trial, click here.