"The reason I'm sitting here telling you anything was, anything at all, the reason I'm going to tell you a lot more is for one reason..the last thing that Sydney Loofe ever said was, 'Will I be ok?' and I said yes..but here she is not ok."
It was the 16th of November 2017. A Thursday. Twenty four year old Sydney Loofe was due to work that day but when her shift began, there was no sign of her and she didn't tell anybody that she wouldn't be in that day. She worked as a cashier in Menards in Lincoln, Nebraska, United States. Her colleagues, friends and family tried to contact her but she didn't respond to any of their calls or text messages.
Sydney's family moved to Neligh when she was in the second grade. Her mother Susie was a special education teacher and her father George was a school principal. They were a close family and when Sydney transferred from the store Menards in Norfolk to the Menards in Lincoln, they all made an effort to stay in touch almost daily and meet frequently for dinner. Sydney would go home often too. She went home the weekend of the 10th of November. On the Sunday, Susie drove back with her to Lincoln and they had dinner. Sydney had recently been struggling with depression and felt the medication she was on was only making things worse. She went to a new Doctor who prescribed her different medication and the week of November 13th, Susie spoke to Sydney a number of times and Sydney sounded more upbeat. She was trying to make a few changes in her life and was looking for a new job. But even though she had been upbeat in recent days, her family were concerned when her colleagues notified them that she didn't show up for work.
Sydney's parents went to her duplex apartment. Sydney wasn't there but her cat Mimzy was. That immediately made Susie extremely worried as she knew how much Sydney loved her cat. Sydney would not have left her alone for long especially with no food or water available. She was reported missing to the police. Police had already carried out a welfare check on Sydney when her colleagues asked them to. There was nothing out of place except for the fact there was no water for Mimzy. The apartment itself was locked when the police carried out the welfare check and Sydney's car was parked outside the duplex. They saw no sign of Sydney but there was no indication that anything sinister had taken place inside the apartment. But the family were adamant. Something was wrong and the police took their concerns seriously.
Susie told police that she believed her daughter went on a date the night of the 15th of November. She took a screenshot of a post Sydney put on Snapchat of a picture of herself and the caption "Ready for my date." Sydney's friends confirmed she was going on a date with a woman she met via Tinder called Audrey. Police looked at Sydney's phone records and surveillance footage from the store where she worked and they quickly established that there was a person that they wanted to speak with urgently. Sydney's phone last pinged to a cell tower in the Wilber area close to an apartment where a woman called Bailey Boswell lived. Police believed that twenty six year old Bailey was the woman Sydney met the night of the 15th of November and that Bailey had used the name Audrey online. Police spoke to Bailey on the phone and she told them that they went on two dates. The second date they went on was the night of the 15th of November, the night before colleagues discovered Sydney was missing. She said that she did not know where Sydney was as she had not heard from her since then. Police wanted to discuss the matter further with Bailey but before they could do so, she went on the run with her fifty two year old boyfriend Aubrey Trail.
While on the run, they posted videos to Facebook stating that they were not involved in Sydney's disappearance and hoped for her safe return. Bailey claimed that she went on two dates with Sydney but dropped her off at a friend's house and never heard from her again. She said:
“I just want the family to know I’m sorry but I didn’t have anything to do with this. I hope Sydney is found really soon, she’s a sweet amazing girl.”
It took several days for police to track them down but they finally found them in a hotel in Branson, Missouri.
A few weeks after Sydney was reported missing, following extensive analysis of Bailey's phone and location records, police found Sydney's remains. She had been dismembered. Her body had been cut into fourteen parts and police found thirteen of her body parts in black plastic garbage bags in ditches in Clay County. Some of her organs, including her heart, were missing.
Bailey and Aubrey were both charged with first degree murder, improper disposal of human remains, and conspiracy to commit murder. Bailey pleaded not guilty to all three counts and while Aubrey pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy, he pleaded guilty to improper disposal of human remains.
Bailey and Aubrey were ordered to have separate Trials but the Prosecution case was essentially the same for both. The Trials took place in Lexington as lawyers argued Bailey and Aubrey would not get a fair Trial in Wilber due to the publicity surrounding the case. It was the Prosecution's case that Sydney was murdered, she was strangled to death, and her murder was a premeditated attack, one that was meticulously planned by both Aubrey and Bailey to fulfill a twisted sexual fantasy they had. It was the Prosecution's case that Aubrey and Bailey were ringleaders of a group that was interested in recruiting young women for sex games. It was their case that Bailey used Tinder to find women.
The Jury heard that Bailey contacted Sydney via Tinder and they went on a date. The date, according to Bailey, involved driving around and getting to know each other, drinking and smoking marijuana. Bailey wanted to meet up again with Sydney and asked to meet the next night, the night of the 15th of November, and Sydney agreed.
Bailey collected Sydney and brought her back to her basement apartment that she shared with Aubrey in Wilber. It was the Prosecution's case that Bailey and Aubrey pounced on her as soon as she entered the apartment and strangled her to death with an extension cord on the living room floor. They believed that she was dead within twenty four minutes of arriving at the apartment. The apartment was then thoroughly cleaned by Bailey and Aubrey and that part, the Prosecution argued, was also preplanned. They told the Court that they then dismembered Sydney and dumped her remains in Clay County the following day, the 16th of November.
The Jury were shown surveillance footage of Bailey and Aubrey purchasing tools that were used for dismembering Sydney and cleaning supplies on November 15th, hours before Sydney was murdered. The Court heard from their landlord Jennifer Koll who testified that on the 16th of November, as soon as she pulled into the garage she smelled bleach and the smell of Clorox got stronger when she entered the house.
The Court heard that Sydney's death was ruled a homicide and the cause of death was strangulation. An Autopsy was conducted on the thirteen body parts that were found. There were abrasions on Sydney's wrists, a bump on her head, torn earlobes and abrasions and contusions on her back. There were defensive wounds on her body indicating that Sydney had fought for her life.
Dr Michelle Elieff, a forensic pathologist, testified that Sydney died of homicide that included strangulation. The Toxicology reports indicated there was antidepressant medication in Sydney's system. The Court heard that apart from the organs that were missing, the part of Sydney's body that was not found was her upper left arm, the part just above the elbow and below the shoulder.
At one point, during Aubrey's Trial, he shouted that Bailey had nothing to do with Sydney's death:
“Bailey is innocent, curse you all.”
He then slashed his throat three times with a razor blade. After that, he didn't attend the Trial for a couple of weeks. The next time he entered the Court room was during the Defense stage and only when he was due to testify. As he was wheeled into the Court, he smirked and told the Judge "I'm going to be good."
It's unusual for an accused to testify at their own Trial. Usually lawyers advise an accused not to testify as it can cause more problems for them when they are cross examined. Some reveal too much, some can't answer questions in a straight forward manner and some are hostile to the lawyers asking questions which creates a bad impression on the Jury. But in Aubrey's case, it wasn't that unusual as he had spoken to the police a lot after his arrest. He gave police a version of events prior to his Trial and at his Trial, he wanted to change his story. So the Court needed to hear his new version of events.
When Aubrey initially spoke to the police after his arrest he told them about a “sex cult” that he and Bailey were involved in. He talked about witch craft and said that he was a vampire who could fly. He portrayed himself as the leader of a sexual cult and a vampire and that he had witches in the cult. The witches would gain power if they tortured and killed another woman. In relation to Sydney's death, he said that he paid her $5000 to fulfill a sexual fantasy with two other women. Aubrey claimed that Sydney died during the sex act which she had consented to take part in and her death was accidental. He admitted disposing of her body. He told police that he cut her up, dismembered her body, as it was a ritual in line with his religious beliefs. He told the police that he had to drain her blood to release her soul to the Gods in a sacred spot and lay out her body parts to help her reincarnate faster.
When Aubrey testified, he told the Jury that they met Sydney in March 2017 and paid her to be part of his illegal activity because she needed money. He said that they did not stay in touch but in November 2017, Bailey wanted to restart the relationship and she contacted Sydney again. Sydney needed money and he said that that was why he was at Menards that day, the 15th of November. He offered her $5000 to be part of his antique theft ring. The three of them ended up engaging in sexual acts later that night and Sydney was accidentally choked to death with an extension cord that they were using as part of a sex game:
“I don’t know if Sydney had a seizure or what but that’s when she stopped breathing.”
He told the Court that there was no ritual involved in cutting up Sydney's body and all the talk in relation to witches, vampires and draining blood was simply not true. He said that he dismembered her as he could not fit her body into the car . When asked what he used to dismember her with, he said that he used a saw, similar to a hacksaw blade but he would call it a curved saw. He said that he panicked and disposed of her body in a Clay County field as soon as it was light on the morning of the 16th of November. When asked why he didn't seek help if her death was accidental, he told the Court that he thought nobody would believe him.
Aubrey admitted that he disposed of Sydney's body but maintained that her death was accidental when they used an extension cord during sex.
At Bailey's Trial, she did not admit to anything. In fact, her lawyers argued that she too was a victim of Aubreys. Her lawyer told the Court that when she met Aubrey, she was a vulnerable young woman. She was living alone at the time, working as a waitress in Princeton, Missouri. She had just ended a domestic violence relationship with the father of her child.
It was the Defense's case that Bailey was not involved in Sydney's death or disposal of her remains but the Prosecution told the Court that that was not true. A cellphone Bailey used to access her Tinder account was used near where Sydney's body parts were found and it was through detailed analysis of her phone and location records that enabled the police to locate Sydney's remains.
The Court also heard how it was Bailey who had reached out to Sydney and arranged to meet her. She was the one who arrived at Sydney's duplex to pick her up on the evening of the 15th of November. The Prosecution told the Court that Bailey took sexual satisfaction from discussions of acts of cruelty and she enjoyed talking about "killing and torture" with Aubrey. The Jury heard testimony from three other women who said they were in a relationship at different times with Aubrey and Bailey that started on Tinder. They were all contacted by Bailey on Tinder and engaged in sexual acts with Bailey and Aubrey. One woman testified that she traveled with them after they met on Tinder. She said that Aubrey gave her a $200 weekly allowance and invited her to join his cult. He referred to members of the cult as witches and told her she would need to torture and kill someone to join. He even suggested women for her to kill, one was a woman they met via Tinder. She testified that Bailey was referred to as the Queen witch.
Another woman testified that Bailey spoke in great detail about breaking fingers and her urge to dismember a body. She enjoyed talking about torture. All three of the women who testified made it clear that both Bailey and Aubrey were involved in all the talk of torture and killing.
The Court also heard that Bailey was with Aubrey on the day Sydney was murdered and they purchased tools including a hack saw, tin snips, and a utility knife at Home Depot together. Around noon that day, Bailey sent Sydney a text message asking how her day was going. Phone records and security footage show Bailey was in the Menards parking lot with Aubrey when she sent that Tinder message and even though Sydney worked in Menards, it didn't appear that she knew Bailey was there.
A few hours later, Bailey sent Sydney another Tinder message alerting her to the fact she was at her apartment to pick her up. Phone records indicate that instead of driving around on their date, as Sydney believed they were going to do, they went to the apartment where Bailey and Aubrey lived.
Bailey's lawyer, Todd Lancaster, argued that in relation to Bailey, the evidence showed that Bailey was guilty of buying bleach and trash bags for Aubrey to use to dispose of Sydney's body and due to that she may be guilty of aiding and abetting improper disposal of human remains. The lawyer asked the Jury:
“But does that prove aiding and abetting first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder. No.”
Her lawyer asked the Jury to focus on the evidence only and not to get distracted by the Autopsy photos:
“They’re going to assault you with those pictures [of the Autopsy]. Ask yourself, is it because their evidence is not strong?”
At Aubrey's Trial, he was found guilty after three hours of deliberation. At Bailey's Trial, it took the Jury less than four hours to convict her.
A three Judge panel will decide their fate-whether they will spend the rest of their lives in prison or receive the death penalty.
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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