Crime & Courts

Swansea man faces charges in disappearance of Nebraska college student

PERU, NE (AP) — A 29-year-old Swansea man told investigators that he drove a missing Peru State College student out of town, had sex with her and then got into a fight, according to court documents.

Joshua Keadle, 29, faces charges of providing false information and tampering with evidence in the disappearance of 19-year-old Tyler "Ty" Thomas, a freshman from Bellevue who was last seen December 3. A release from the Nemaha County sheriff's office called Keadle a person of interest in the case.

Keadle, who has attended several Nebraska colleges in recent years, was held Friday in the Nemaha County jail. He was denied bond. Court records don't list his attorney.

The sheriff's office said Keadle has been suspended from Peru State, which is about 55 miles south of Omaha. College president Dan Hanson cited federal privacy law in a statement saying school officials would not release information about Keadle.

Thomas was last seen at 1:30am on Dec. 3 as she was leaving an off-campus party in Peru, according school officials. She was reported missing about 3 a.m. Authorities, joined by dozens of volunteers, have been searching the area, including near the Missouri River.

Keadle initially reported seeing Thomas near her dorm early Dec. 3 but said he had no contact with her, according to an affidavit filed by sheriff Brent Lottman. Keadle later said they left Peru together and had sex in his vehicle, the affidavit said.

Keadle told investigators that a verbal and physical fight later erupted, with Thomas threatening to report that he had raped her, according to the affidavit. He returned to his dorm room and took a shower to wash off any physical evidence of their encounter, the sheriff's affidavit said.

The affidavit does not include information on when or how Keadle and Thomas parted ways. Messages left Friday for the sheriff and county attorney weren't immediately returned.

Before his arrest on Wednesday, Keadle told Omaha television station KMTV that he last saw Thomas walking toward a campus dorm in cold weather without a coat.

"It really didn't sink in 'til I seen, like, her family crying outside the hallway," he said. "Then it was like wow — this could be serious."

Court records show Keadle was charged last month with criminal mischief in connection with a damaged door on campus. He also pleaded guilty to a theft charge in Dodge County stemming from an October 2009 incident and was fined.

Keadle previously attended other Nebraska colleges, including Wayne State and Midland, where he was on the football team, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Messages left Friday for spokesmen at those schools weren't immediately returned.

Peru State is a small liberal arts school in the Nebraska State College System. According to school's website, it has about 2,100 students.