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Sydney Loofe’s mom was the first witness to testify in her murder trial.
After the trial was delayed Wednesday, it got back on track Thursday as the prosecution sailed through testimony, calling 10 witnesses and breaking early for the day.
When court reconvened on Thursday morning, District Judge Vicky Johnson explained the previous day’s delay was because the defendant Aubrey Trail “was ill yesterday.”
The prosecution got to work right after the judge’s announcement and called Susie Loofe to the stand.
A Neligh-Oakdale special education teacher for 19 years, Loofe started her testimony by providing Sydney’s background information. She said the family moved to Neligh when Sydney was in second grade. After graduating from Neligh-Oakdale in 2011, Sydney started at Northeast Community College, but later decided to enter the workforce and began working at Menards in Norfolk. Two years later, she transferred to a Menards store in Lincoln, where she worked until the time of her death.
Loofe said Sydney came back to Neligh for a visit in November 2017, the weekend before she went missing.
“I rode back to Lincoln with her on Sunday night,” she said.
Loofe said Sydney had been struggling with depression and her medication didn’t seem to be working, so Loofe set up a doctor’s appointment with her cousin who is a general practitioner in Lincoln. On Monday, Nov. 13, the doctor switched Sydney to a new medication. Loofe said she took her daughter out to eat and then returned to Neligh later that day.
She was in contact with Sydney on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, texting on and off to ask about her new meds and her search for a different job.
“She had a feeling in the first day or two that the new medication was working and she was feeling a little bit more upbeat,” Loofe said.
Her last text message conversation with Sydney was Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.
“I said, ‘I love you,’ and she said, ‘I love you too,’” Loofe said.
She later saw a Snapchat of Sydney that said, "Ready for my date" and took a screenshot of it.
"My children didn't like it, but I screenshotted a lot of their Snapchats," Loofe said.
She texted Sydney again, “You didn’t tell me that you had a date,” but there was no response. This didn't concern Loofe at the time. She wasn't alarmed until the next evening when her other daughter MacKenzie began receiving messages from Sydney's friends saying no one had heard from her and she hadn't shown up for work at Menards that day. Loofe tried texting and calling Sydney, but got no answer.
"Then I was concerned," she said. "That's when I called the Lincoln Police Department."
Loofe told the officer no one was able to get in touch with Sydney, and because so many people had contacted them, officers decided to do a wellness check. When she wasn't at her apartment, Loofe, her husband George, and MacKenzie left for Lincoln the next morning to look for her. Her vehicle was still in the driveway when they got to her apartment. She said a landlord opened her apartment for them. Sydney's cat, Mimzy, was there — without food or water.
"That's when we knew something was wrong," Loofe said. "She loved her cat."
When the defense attorney cross examined her, he asked her to describe Sydney's tattoos and asked about drug use. Loofe said Sydney had told her that she was trying to stop smoking marijuana.
Leah Shaw, a Menards manager, took the stand next. Shaw described Sydney as a reliable cashier who would help out whenever needed, even giving breaks to gate attendants at the lumber yard. She said Sydney was smiling and was feeling good when she saw her at work on Nov. 15, but she didn't show up for work the next day. Each time the manager tried to call, "her phone went straight to voicemail." She and co-workers also tried to contact Sydney at her apartment.
LPD Sgt. Tyler Cooper testified that he and a couple other officers were the ones who conducted the wellness check on the night of Nov. 16. He said Sydney's vehicle was in the driveway, and all of her apartment lights were on, but her door was locked. They attempted to knock and ring the doorbell. When neither were successful, the officers found an unlocked window to gain entry. He said they searched for Sydney in her apartment. As they left, the officers turned off the lights so patrolling officers could easily check to see if someone had returned.
LPD Captain Jake Dilsaver said he got a debriefing from Cooper when his shift started so they could continue the search. After talking with Loofe, officers learned that Sydney had been on a Tinder date and her mother thought she had last been with that person, he said. "I also initiated a ping of Sydney's phone," Dilsaver said. Verizon indicated that her phone had not received or sent any information for about 24 hours. "It had last pinged in Wilber, Nebraska," he said.
After a lunch break, Brittney Flinn of Neligh took the stand. Flinn said she and Sydney had played softball together when they were young. "We were really good friends," she said as her voice quavered. Flinn said she last saw Sydney when she was back in Neligh the weekend before she disappeared. She said they went to Rafts of Crafts and out for supper together. Her last communication with Sydney was via text message on Nov. 14, 2017, when she texted Flinn she had been on a date. She sent Flinn a photo of her date and messaged that she had met her on Tinder. The prosecution showed the witness a photo that said "Audrey," the woman who would later be identified as Bailey Boswell — Trail's fiancee who is also charged with Sydney's murder.
Brooklyn McCrystal of Lincoln, another one of Sydney's friends, testified next. She formerly worked at Menards and has remained a close friend, McCrystal said. After some friends told her Sydney didn't show up for work, she tried texting and calling her. When she didn't get a response, McCrystal texted Sydney's sister. "I was trying to really find her," she said. McCrystal said MacKenzie sent her the Tinder photo of "Audrey," and she "started doing some digging." On Nov. 16, 2017, McCrystal created her own Tinder page with similar settings in an attempt to find "Audrey." When she found the photo, she "swiped right" and got a response the following day. "That's when I was able to message her through the Tinder app." McCrystal said they communicated for awhile and she eventually got the woman's phone number. "I immediately told Sydney's family," she said. On the cross examination, defense attorney Joseph Murray said, "I, for one, applaud your initiative."
LPD Officer Joseph Yindrick said officers tried a another ping of Sydney's phone on Nov. 17, and learned that it hadn't been powered on since Nov. 15. Yindrick said he was one of the officers who entered Sydney's apartment with her parents and sister when they arrived. "Her parents were extremely concerned," he said.
LPD Investigator Cameron Cleland said he has been involved in "numerous" missing persons cases and became involved with Sydney's case on Nov. 17, 2017. "What stood out to me was the family's immediate reporting and insistence of it," he said. "The family was adamant there was a problem." Cleland said he contacted Sydney's bank and was advised that there had not been any activity for two days. He said an officer provided him with the phone number for "Audrey" that McCrystal had received. Cleland said he left a message, and on Friday afternoon, she called back. "Audrey" admitted that she had met Sydney on a dating app and had picked her up at her apartment at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2017. She told him they drove around, listened to music, talked and smoked marijuana before she dropped off Sydney at a friend's house. She identified herself as "Audrey Cain," but was evasive about giving out other basic details, citing concerns about drug possession charges. "I felt she was holding information back," Cleland said. On Nov. 19, 2017, Aubrey Trail attempted to call LPD, but asked for the wrong officer. Cleland later listened to the messages in which Trail said officers were looking for his fiancee Bailey Boswell "because she was the last person with Sydney Loofe."
Saline County Deputy Dillon Semrad took the stand next. He said he searched Boswell's phone number online. Semrad said he contacted Pinger — the company that provided Boswell with an application for a fake phone number. He said a Pinger number goes through the internet, but uses a phone number. Semrad was able to get her user name, email and three IP addresses. He said the IP addresses show where the phone accessed the internet and he was able to cross reference the times and dates. Semrad said there was a number that was used to contact Sydney.
LPD Investigator Lacey Reha was the final witness for the prosecution on Thursday. Reha said she helped map the phone number that McCrystal helped get from Tinder. When Reha checked hotels that coincided with the area, she learned "Audrey" was really Bailey Boswell and that she had checked into a Lincoln hotel on Nov. 14, 2017. Her mapping of phone records uncovered that Sydney and Boswell's phones had traveled together to Wilber on Wednesday night. She also used a program in the police department to find the address in Wilber.
Court adjourned around 4 p.m. on Thursday and is expected to reconvene at 9 a.m. on Friday.