Judge refuses to drop murder charge, allows case of missing Peru State student to proceed

Judge refuses to drop murder charge, allows case of missing Peru State student to proceed
Joshua Keadle, right, and defense attorney Jeff Pickens during a court appearance in Auburn in October 2017. (The Associated Press)

LINCOLN — A judge has scheduled a July 2 hearing for Joshua Keadle to enter a plea to a murder charge in the case of a Peru State College student who went missing in 2010.

On Thursday, Nemaha County District Judge Ricky Schreiner overruled Keadle’s “plea in abatement,” which had argued that the prosecutor failed to show probable cause that Keadle was responsible for the death of Tyler Thomas of Omaha.

The judge’s decision means Keadle must now enter a plea to first-degree murder in the disappearance of the 19-year-old student from the small college campus near the Missouri River.

A law enforcement investigator testified that Keadle told authorities that he left Thomas alive near a remote public boat ramp on the river. Keadle said that they engaged in consensual sex and that Thomas threatened to accuse him of raping her after he refused to give her a ride to Omaha.

Witnesses told authorities that they were with Keadle when he saw Thomas standing outside her dormitory shortly before she disappeared. A friend of the missing student said Thomas strongly disliked Keadle and would never have accepted a ride from him.

Keadle’s attorney argued that the evidence offered during the preliminary hearing could also support the conclusion that Thomas was intoxicated from attending parties earlier in the evening and fell into the Missouri River.

Keadle, 36, is serving 15 to 20 years in prison for an unrelated sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in Dodge County. He becomes eligible for parole next year and is scheduled for mandatory release in 2021.

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