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State judge dismisses family suit against Nebraska college board over student's disappearance

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AUBURN, Nebraska — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to hold the Nebraska State College Board of Trustees responsible for the 2010 disappearance of a 19-year-old Peru State student.

Judge Daniel Bryant Jr. ruled Wednesday that college officials could not have foreseen that student Joshua Keadle posed a threat to Tyler "Ty" Thomas.

Lawyer Vince Powers said the Thomas family will appeal the ruling. In July, a federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by the Thomas family against the college board.

Thomas disappeared in December 2010 after leaving a party near the campus. Keadle, 33, who's been imprisoned for an unrelated rape conviction, has not been charged in the Thomas case. Authorities say he made several statements that led investigators to believe he was involved. He's denied the allegations.

A death certificate was issued for Thomas in 2013, although her body has never been found.

Keadle told authorities he and Thomas had sex in his vehicle the night of her disappearance, and that he left her alive on a river dock after she threatened to report that he had raped her.

Keadle was later convicted and sentenced to 15 to 20 years for the 2008 rape of a 15-year-old Fremont girl.

At a state lawsuit hearing on Aug. 12, Powers said Peru State's director of campus security recommended to administrators that Keadle be expelled. At the time, Keadle was a 29-year-old student who had been accused of sexually harassing two female students during his first weeks of living in a co-ed dorm.

Ronald Krause, an Omaha attorney representing the college board, countered that a jury "could not reasonably conclude the college had information that Keadle posed a serious risk of violence to another student."

Bryant agreed with Krause.

"The various bits and pieces of Keadle's conduct and actions while a student at Peru State College, known by the college or any one of its employees, considered in totality would not rise to a level sufficient to establish that the board knew or should have known that Keadle was about to harm Taylor or another student," he said.

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