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Shortly after Sydney Loofe’s disappearance, something unusual occurred at the basement apartment where Aubrey Trail and Bailey Boswell resided.
Their landlords, who lived on the floor above, noticed the strong smell of bleach emanating from the couple’s apartment.
In Saline County District Court on Friday, landlords Alan Koll and his wife Jennifer of Wilber both testified that they initially noted the smell on Nov. 16, 2017. Sydney was last heard from on Nov. 15. Jennifer’s son who had a basement bedroom that was sectioned off from Trail and Boswell’s apartment — but shared two walls — said he noticed the distinct smell in the late hours of the 15th.
The odor was so strong on the 16th that Mrs. Koll texted her husband at work after she smelled it around lunchtime. Her sensitivity to bleach was discussed in court.
“We don’t keep Clorox in the house because I’m allergic to it,” she said. “I start vomiting. I get hives.”
Despite the fact that it was mid-November, Mrs. Koll said she opened up the house for two days because the scent of bleach was making her sick. They said it took several days to dissipate.
Around the same time, Mr. Koll said the basement apartment air conditioner froze up. He later discovered it was because the temperature had been set at 60 degrees even though it was chilly outside.
Mr. Koll said Trail and Boswell first became their tenants in June of 2017, signing a one-year lease for the apartment. He said Trail introduced Boswell as his fiancee and said they were antique dealers. Mr. Koll said Trail always paid his rent in cash, often months in advance, and he “infrequently” had contact with him.
He said the basement apartment and its contents came under investigation and were involved in several search warrants by law enforcement officers. Mr. Koll said he had to repair “all of the investigative damage” after evidence samples were cut from the carpet and other areas were destroyed.
The landlords said they rarely saw the tenant or anyone with them; however, Mrs. Koll said she once saw Boswell with a girl who had blond hair. She initially thought it was Sydney Loofe, but later admitted that she was quite a distance away and probably identified her incorrectly.
Saline County Deputy Tom Hudiburgh said Sydney’s missing persons investigation led law enforcement to Wilber — specifically to the residence of Boswell and Trail.
When he contacted their landlords on Nov. 18, 2017, “They advised me that there was a strong aroma of bleach.” Hudiburgh knocked on their apartment door and no one responded. He noted the bleach smell, got a key from the landlords and entered the residence. Hudiburgh did “a sweep” of the apartment and found no one present.
The final two witnesses of the day did more extensive searches, confiscating evidence after warrants were issued.
Pedram Nabegh, a Nebraska State Patrol investigator, and Cindy Koenig-Warneke, a Lincoln Police Department investigator, said they first became involved in the Sydney Loofe investigation on Nov. 19, 2017. Nabegh said they were looking for evidence in connection with her disappearance. “Anything that helped establish a timeline,” he said.
A couple searches were done and Nabegh said they collected numerous pieces of evidence from the apartment, including swabs from sinks, a prescription bottle for Katelyn Randall, instructions on how to encrypt a phone, receipts for bleach and Hefty cinch sacks, a digital scale, drug paraphernalia, zip ties, condoms, a Viagra pill, a whip, straps, fur handcuffs, sex toys, three bleach bottles — nearly two and a half of them empty — and a fitted sheet.
“The corresponding straight sheet was not found at the time, it was later found in rural Clay County,” he said. Sydney’s remains were discovered in Clay County on Dec. 4, 2017.
Nabegh said searches were also conducted of two cars, a silver Chrysler 300 and a black Ford 500. Some of the items found in the vehicles were: a handsaw, knife, handwritten list of names, bedding, Nov. 18 receipts from a Nebraska City Walmart and a Plattsmouth Shopko, hair and fibers and what appeared to be a small, wooden club.
When Koenig-Warneke took the stand, her testimony focused on the processes and tools used in identifying evidence during the searches. The investigator explained that Blue Star is “a blood enhancement reagent” which is sprayed on items and ALS, or an alternate light source, uses ultraviolet light to help you “see things that you may not otherwise see.”
She said the center of the living room was an “area of concern” after it produced a unique reaction she had never seen before.
Testimony is scheduled to continue on Monday at 9 a.m.