BEATRICE – The jury deliberated for almost nine hours before returning Thursday afternoon finding Joshua Keadle guilty of second-degree murder for the killing of a 19-year-old Peru State student who disappeared early Dec. 3, 2010.
“While we have never been able to bring Thomas’ body home, we are hopeful that today’s verdict will bring her family some semblance of closure from their long years of uncertainty and suffering,” Attorney General Doug Peterson said.
The jurors had reached a decision in the 2 1/2-week-long case, sending attorneys and spectators back to the third-floor courtroom at the Gage County Courthouse.
On Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Keadle could’ve been guilty of first-degree murder for taking Tyler Thomas to the river, the morning she disappeared, with the intent to isolate and kill her before dumping her body in the river.
Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Doug Warner said the defense was all “cover-up, lies and deceit.”
Keadle’s attorney, Matt McDonald, acknowledged in his closing statements Wednesday that Thomas is likely dead, but added Keadle “is not the cause of her death.” He told jurors that the state wanted them to wildly speculate about what happened despite a timeline that didn’t fit.
McDonald believes it was more likely that Thomas fell in the river, given her alcohol consumption and how she was acting that night.
Tuesday, a forensic pathologist talked about the effects that the cold weather and water could have on the body.
Keadle is nearing the end of a 15-20 year sentence on a sexual assault case in Dodge County and will face 20 years to life in prison at his sentencing April 29.