Joshua Keadle has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Tyler Thomas, a 19-year-old woman from Omaha who was attending Peru State College in 2010 when she disappeared.
Thomas never was found after her disappearance in the early morning hours of Dec. 3.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated over two days before rendering a verdict Thursday afternoon.
Keadle, now 38, wasn’t charged until seven years after Thomas disappeared, and after years of searches for her body turned up nothing.
He initially told authorities that he hadn’t been with Thomas on the night she vanished. Then, four days later, Keadle changed his story, saying that he picked up Thomas as she walked through campus, then drove with Thomas to a remote boat ramp on the Missouri River, just outside Peru.
Thomas, Keadle said, asked for a ride to Omaha, and he asked for a sex act in exchange. Afterward, Keadle said, he changed his mind about giving her a ride, and Thomas became angry and threatened to report that she had been raped. Ultimately, he said, he drove away, leaving Thomas behind along the river.
After prosecutors initially declined to charge Keadle, Thomas’ family filed a civil lawsuit, which requires a lower standard of proof than is required in a criminal trial. They won in state court, with a jury in Nemaha County awarding the family a record $2.6 billion judgment in 2016 against Keadle.
By then, Keadle was serving time in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Fremont in 2008. The victim came forward after Thomas’ disappearance hit the news.
Keadle, who was sentenced to serve 15 to 20 years in prison for rape, became eligible for release on parole two years ago.