Trial starts

Joshua Keadle, right, and defense attorney Jeff Pickens are shown in court in 2017.

LINCOLN — A judge Monday granted another delay in the trial of Joshua Keadle, the man accused of murdering an Omaha woman attending Peru State College.

District Judge Rick Schreiner ordered the trial to start Jan. 27 in Gage County. The three-week trial originally had been scheduled to begin in April but had been postponed to Sept. 16.

Keadle’s attorney asked for the second delay so the defense could review newly available content from victim Tyler Thomas’ laptop computer.

On Friday, Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy said that because of a mix-up, a “limited preview” of 93KB of information found on Thomas’ laptop was not provided to the defense until Thursday.

He said that the information on the computer would take several days to analyze more thoroughly and that the data could provide crucial clues about the state of Thomas’ mind at the time she disappeared, and about whether a crime really occurred.

Thomas, a 19-year-old dance team captain from Omaha, disappeared on Dec. 3, 2010, after a night of partying at Peru State. Keadle, then 29, initially denied seeing her that night but eventually told authorities that he had driven her to a boat dock along the Missouri River.

He told investigators that Thomas asked for a ride to Omaha, and he requested a sex act in exchange. Keadle said that afterward, he changed his mind about giving her a ride and an argument ensued in which Thomas threatened to report that she had been raped. Keadle said he drove away, leaving Thomas at the boat dock.

She was never seen again, and her body, despite intensive searches, has never been found. Keadle, though a “person of interest” from the start, was not charged with murder until 2017. In the interim, he was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old girl in 2008 while he was a student at Midland College in Fremont, and Thomas’ family won a $2.6 billion judgment in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Schreiner previously ruled that the trial should be moved from Nemaha County, where Thomas was last seen, to Beatrice, where the courthouse has an elevator, a larger courtroom, and nearby meeting rooms and restrooms to better accommodate the trial.