WILBER, NE — Another chapter is closed in one of the Nebraska’s most sensational murder cases.
A three-judge panel sentenced Aubrey Trail to death on Wednesday. Their job since a evidentiary hearing in March, has been to weigh the aggravating circumstance of the killing and dismemberment of Sydney Loofe, against any mitigating factors presented by the defense.
They reached a unanimous decision.
“Imposed by the panel on count one; murder in the first degree, a class one felony, the defendant is sentenced to death,” Judge Vicky Johnson said.
The State needed to prove at least one aggravating circumstance to warrant the death penalty. Prosecutors focused on “exceptional depravity by ordinary standards of morality and intelligence.” The panel said they proved it beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The murder was coldly calculated, Trail relished the murder, there was needless mutilation of the body, the murder was senseless, and Sydney Loofe was a helpless victim,” Johnson said.
The defense presented mitigating factors but the panel disregarded one of them and said Trail’s tough upbringing didn’t outweigh the depravity of the murder.
Before the sentence, Trail read a statement. He changed his testimony from trial when he said Loofe died as part of a sex act gone wrong. Instead, he says he told her about his criminal activities, she freaked out and he knew she would turn him in.
“The truth is, I killed Sydney because of her reaction to what I had told her and shown her," Trail said. "I had no doubt that she would tell people if I let her go.”
Loofe’s family watched on as Trail read his statement. Her dad, George, wore a shirt featuring the words of one of her tattoos: “Everything will be wonderful someday.”
Trail said he wasn’t going to ask for forgiveness, but did express regret.
“I have done some terrible things in my life, but this is the only thing that I have ever done that I feel real regret about," Trail said. "In the past I could justify myself, but not this time. Sydney did nothing but reject my lifestyle and threaten to expose it and I killed her for it.”
His attorneys say they were surprised by what Trail said in his statement.
“I don’t know what to think about what he said this morning, other than I do think deep down he wanted to give some solace to the Loofe family and hopefully he did,” attorney Joe Murray.
This isn’t the last chapter in Trail’s saga. The sentencing is automatically appealed in death penalty cases. His attorneys say they will have a brief ready in the next couple months.