Court: College not liable for student's disappearance

Court: College not liable for student's disappearance. (MGN)

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that Peru State College was not liable for the 2010 disappearance of one of its students.

The court issued its ruling Friday in the lawsuit filed by the parents of Tyler "Ty" Thomas against the Nebraska State College System's governing board. The wrongful death lawsuit contends the college failed to protect Thomas from harm.

Thomas, 19, disappeared after encountering Joshua Keadle, a fellow Peru State student now serving prison time for raping another teenage girl.

Thomas was a freshman at the southeast Nebraska college when she disappeared in December 2010 after leaving a party. Authorities said Keadle told them he and Thomas had sex in his vehicle that night, and that he left her at a boat ramp along the Missouri River and she threatened to report he had raped her.

Keadle has not been charged in her disappearance, but a jury found him liable in a lawsuit and ordered him to pay $2.6 billion. Thomas' family won't be able to collect because Keadle doesn't have the assets to pay it, but their attorney has said the judgment — believed to be the largest in state history — would provide them some solace.

Keadle is now serving 15 to 20 years in prison for the 2008 rape of a 15-year-old in Fremont. The state issued a death certificate for Thomas in 2013, though her body has never been found.

In the weeks before Thomas' disappearance, Peru State's director of campus security recommended to administrators that Keadle be expelled, according to court documents, but other officials declined to do so. 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.

"Because we determine as a matter of law that Keadle's alleged abduction, rape and murder of Thomas were not a foreseeable risk, we affirm the district court's order" dismissing the lawsuit, the state Supreme Court said in its ruling.

The Thomas family also argued in a federal lawsuit that the college's governing board violated Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools, by failing to protect her from harm. That lawsuit was dismissed, and the dismissal was upheld by an appeals court.

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