Anthropologist says tool used to dismember Sydney Loofe consistent with saw Trail bought before Loofe's death

Published: Jul. 8, 2019 at 11:46 AM CDT
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The prosecution in the Sydney Loofe murder case will call their final witness Tuesday morning after three weeks of testimony.

Then, the defense will have their chance to call witnesses- and Aubrey Trail, will have his chance to take the stand.

Monday, however, jurors heard from two witnesses who examined Loofe’s body after her death.

First, the pathologist who performed her autopsy, Dr. Michelle Elieff.

Elieff described receiving Loofe’s body, which was cut into 13 different parts, in different body bags on December 7, 2017. Loofe’s body was found in rural Clay County just a few days before, on Dec. 4 and 5.

She said they knew the body was Loofe’s initially because of her tattoos, but then confirmed that through dental records.

Then, her task was determining a cause of death.

Eventually, it was ruled homicidal actions, including strangulation.

But it wasn’t easy to come to that conclusion because several parts of Loofe’s body were missing.

“The bottom of the jaw and tissue inside was missing, her tongue, the upper part of her trachea and windpipe,” Elieff said.

What was there led them to believe Loofe was strangled.

Elieff said Loofe had burst blood vessels in her eyes and across her face, as well as significant hemorrhage in her lower neck, all of which are signs of strangulation.

Trail’s attorneys maintain Loofe’s death was an accident that happened during a sexual fantasy involving choking.

In an interview with Trail that was played in the courtroom, he described “pulling” and “releasing” a cord around Loofe’s neck during the fantasy, he said he must have held on for too long when Loofe died.

The prosecution asked Elieff how long it would take to strangle someone to death.

“Strangulation is a process,” Elieff said. “Unconsciousness can happen in as little as ten seconds, it usually takes minutes for strangulation to result in death.”

She said the rest of the autopsy showed there were some bruises and scratches on Loofe’s body that she could have gotten either right before or around the time of death. There were also ligature marks on her wrists.

She did say there were some marks on the body that appeared to come from predation, or animals that were in the field where Loofe was left.

The defense asked if some of the missing body parts, like the upper neck, heart and lungs could be missing because of predators.

Elieff said it was possible, because there were teeth marks in some areas of the body, but she said there was more tissue gone than would usually indicate an animal was responsible.

She also tested Loofe’s body for drugs. She said there was no blood in the body to test, but they checked her brain tissue and urine.

The only drugs detected were anti-depressants and an anti-anxiety medication. There was no evidence of any illegal drugs in Loofe’s system, despite previous testimony that Loofe had smoked marijuana in the days before her death.

“It’s possible that if I had blood to test, it would have shown evidence of marijuana,” Elieff said.

Elieff also examined Loofe’s genitals. She said they found no signs of injury to her vaginal or anal cavities. She said there was slight hemorrhaging in her vaginal cavity, but that could have been caused by anything- including inserting a tampon.

Previous testimony showed Loofe had started her period a few days before she died.

The defense asked if the hemorrhaging in her vaginal cavity, the ligature marks and scratches and bruises could have come from rough consensual sex and Elieff said yes.

The defense also reiterated that just because the cause of death was ruled homicide, doesn’t mean it was intentional, just that the death occurred at the hands of another.

Next to testify was a forensic anthropologist who examined Loofe’s bones, Dr. Steven Symes.

Symes, based out of Mississippi, specializes in cases involving dismemberment.

He described many clean, sharp cuts on Loofe’s body made by three different tools, including a hack saw similar to the one Trail is seen buying on surveillance video from Home Depot.

The defense asked Symes if it was possible another type of saw was used to dismember the body and he said while possible, it was unlikely.

Symes did say there were several parts of the body that had damage from animals, including the jaw.

Symes also said there were several things that set the Loofe case apart from the hundreds of other dismemberment cases he’s investigated.

Including the amount of flesh missing from her body.

“I thought I saw a lot of exposed bone, it’s very unusual,” Symes said.

He said bones in her neck, ankles, shoulders, knees and back were exposed.

He also said there was a “remarkable lack” of knife marks to the bones, indicating much of the dismemberment was done with a saw.

The prosecution will call their final witness Tuesday morning. They will go over letters found in the Saline County Jail they believer show communication between Trail and Bailey Boswell, a co- defendant in the case.

The defense will then call two witnesses, only one can appear in person. Attorneys will read the deposition of the other.

Both are employees of the Grand Weaver hotel in Falls City. Ben Murray, one of Trail’s defense attorneys said the employees believe they saw Loofe at their hotel months before she went missing.

Trail could also take the stand. Ben Murray left the courthouse immediately after testimony to visit Trail and find out if he wants to take the stand.

Joe Murray, who is also representing Trail said they won’t know for sure if he will testify until the morning.

The jury is expected to start deliberation Wednesday.