Prime suspect in Tyler Thomas convicted of rape

I’m a bit out of the loop on this one — this happened in March. But I thought I’d blog about it anyway. I’ll update the casefile tomorrow.

Tyler Marie Thomas, a nineteen-year-old freshman at a tiny college in Nebraska, vanished without a trace in December 2010. She left a campus party, drunk, and apparently ran into Joshua Keadle, another student at the college. They’d gone on one date and Tyler decided he was a creep and she wanted nothing to do with him.

What happened next is a matter of conjecture. All we know for sure is that Tyler was never seen again. Keadle admitted to taking her to the Missouri River. He said they had sex, then Tyler freaked out and accused him of rape, and he left her there on the boat dock. The police found his tire tracks. And also drag marks indicating something had been placed in the river.

After Tyler’s disappearance became public, several girls came forward saying Keadle had sexually assaulted them. In one case, charges stuck: a fifteen-year-old girl said that in April 2008, more than two years before Tyler vanished, she was staying overnight on a college campus where Keadle was a student (not Tyler’s college; he transferred around a lot). She had gone to visit his roommate. While she was there, Keadle propositioned her FIVE TIMES and was turned down each time. Then she got drunk and fell asleep, and then he raped her while she was sleeping. She blamed herself for what happened, and didn’t go to the police until she heard about Tyler.

Incidentally, like Tyler, this victim was black. I wonder if the other women who came forward and said they were victimized by Keadle were also black. Wikipedia says Nebraska’s population is only about 5% black. It seems like a strange coincidence, if coincidence it was. Maybe he has a thing for black women. Maybe he victimizes black women because he thinks the police would be less likely to believe them (and alas, he’s probably right).

Anyway, when confronted about the 15-year-old, after some hemming and hawing, Keadle admitted to everything but penetration. He had erectile dysfunction, he said, and that’s the only reason he didn’t have sex with the drunk, unconscious minor. No penetration = no rape.

Yeah, this is a real prince of a guy. The prosecution actually had to call several of his old girlfriends to the stand to testify that he didn’t have performance problems. Distasteful.

The jury didn’t buy it and convicted him of first-degree sexual assault of a minor. He got 15 to 20 years in prison — significantly less than the maximum term of 50 years — and could be out in as little as six and a half years. The judge said he couldn’t consider Tyler’s disappearance as a factor in sentencing. From this article:

The presentence investigation showed Keadle had a history of disrespecting and using women for his personal gain.

But Keadle also had two factors in his favor. First, he had no prior felony convictions and no history of violence, except for a domestic assault stemming from a fight with his father.

In addition, the victim said Keadle did not strike or otherwise assault her during the rape. Had he beaten the girl, he would have likely received more time.

The judge said he was particularly bothered by Keadle’s habit of enrolling at small Nebraska colleges, telling other students he was younger than his real age.

“I question your motive,” the judge said. “Was it a failure to grow up … or was it your attempt to take advantage of young, naive women?”

Authorities believe they can charge Keadle in Tyler Thomas’s case eventually. Now they have, at minimum, six and a half years to gather evidence while Keadle’s in cold storage.

I remember researching and writing up Tyler’s case. It profoundly disturbed me, in large part because I was doing this was around the anniversary of the time I was myself attacked. My own ordeal was playing in my head on continuous loop all the time, and here I was writing about someone else’s. Usually the violence doesn’t bother me. This time it did.

I’m really glad Keadle’s victim came forward with her story. It was awfully brave of her. I understand why she blamed herself. I blamed myself. I still blame myself. I’m not the only one who did so. About a week after it happened, one of my dearest friends in the world told me it was my fault and I should just try to forget the whole thing because no jury would ever believe my story anyway. And I really don’t think she was trying to be cruel. I think she was just saying what she thought. She always says what she thinks.

And there are a lot of people in this world who would say that Keadle’s young victim was to blame for what happened because she went to that apartment and got drunk and fell asleep alone with two young men. And that Tyler invited her fate when she left that party alone, drunk, in the middle of the night. As if men can’t control themselves. As if they don’t know the meaning of the word “no.”

As for Keadle: he’s a class-A creep at minimum and probably a murderer. I just hope he gets called on it.

Amir Jennings, Zaylee Fryar and Joshua Davis

HuffPo has run an article with the headline: “Amir Jennings, Missing Boy, Neglected By Media Because He’s A Black Boy, Not A White Girl?”

I have written before that I think there’s a lot more to it than race. (I think it’s one of my better entries.) And yes, Amir Jennings should be getting more attention than he has. But I can think of a few babies who are getting absolutely no attention right now. All of whom disappeared the same year as Amir.

Babies like one-year-old Joshua Davis. And Zaylee Fryar, at a mere three months. The most recent article I can find for Joshua is from February, on the anniversary of his disappearance. For Zaylee it’s even longer.

Amir, Joshua and Zaylee all happen to be minorities. Certainly that’s a factor in the media attention, or lack thereof. But I think just as great as a factor is that in all three of these cases, it’s not clear the child was abducted by a stranger. Rightly or wrongly, there’s a lot of suspicion swirling around on family members in all three cases. I think, when there’s clear and convincing evidence of a stranger abduction (like, with Elizabeth Smart), the story becomes more popular with the media because it plays on people’s fears.

That kind of crime could happen to anybody, to any family. But people tell themselves that disappearances like Zaylee’s and Amir’s and Joshua’s only happen in messed-up families with crazy, drugged-up parents. Not families like yours. That would never happen to a family like yours.

I think that’s also why, in a high-profile missing child case, people are so anxious to go over the family with a microscope, exposing all their flaws, quick to judge the parents based on how hard they cry on TV. Because they don’t want to admit that this could happen to anyone. They don’t want to confront themselves with the truth that it happened to a perfectly normal family, because that means it could happen to you.

Do you think this theory applies to Amir’s case and others like it? Discuss.