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August ruling anticipated on request to dismiss lawsuit over missing Nebraska college student

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LINCOLN, Nebraska — A federal judge said he hopes to decide in August whether to dismiss a lawsuit against Nebraska college officials over the disappearance of a 19-year-old student.

Peru State College student Tyler Thomas disappeared in 2010 after leaving a party, and a death certificate was issued in 2013, though her body hasn't been found.

Her family filed a lawsuit for wrongful death against the Nebraska State Colleges Board of Trustees, which governs Peru State, and a man, who was a fellow student and suspected in Thomas' disappearance. The board is requesting the suit's dismissal.

The man, who was 29 years old then, had told authorities that he and Thomas had met before she went missing. He isn't charged in her disappearance and is currently serving a prison sentence for an unrelated sexual assault conviction.

The attorney representing Thomas' family said two female students at Peru State had filed sexual harassment complaints against the man in the weeks before Thomas disappeared. Administrators also were told by a sheriff's deputy that he had been accused of rape while he was enrolled at a different university.

Yet Peru State authorities allowed the man to continue living in the same residence hall as Thomas and other first-year students, the family attorney's said.

An attorney for Peru State argued that administrators didn't have enough information to suspect that the man had presented a threat to women at the college. The school acted appropriately to address the two sexual harassment complaints, and had conducted criminal background checks, which revealed no past convictions for sexual assault or felony crimes.

The man, now 33, is serving 15 to 20 years in prison for the 2008 sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl that occurred in Fremont. A jury had convicted him of rape in 2012.

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