- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2015

AUBURN, Neb. (AP) - The family of a Peru State College student missing since 2010 and presumed dead is pushing ahead with a lawsuit against the college in state court, just two weeks after a similar lawsuit was dismissed in federal court.

At a hearing in Nemaha County District Court on Wednesday, an attorney for the family of Tyler “Ty” Thomas asked the judge to find college officials responsible for ignoring warnings that fellow student Joshua Keadle was a possible threat to women at the college.

Thomas was 19 when she disappeared days before Christmas in 2010 after leaving a party near the Peru State campus. Keadle, who is serving a prison sentence for a 2008 rape, has not been charged in Thomas’ disappearance, but authorities say he made several statements that led investigators to believe he was involved.

In the weeks before Thomas’ disappearance, Peru State’s director of campus security had recommended to administrators that Keadle be expelled, attorney Vince Powers said in the hearing. 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.

“I don’t think there’s a case in America where a college can ignore the director of security who says ‘Kick him out of school,’” Powers said.

Ronald Krause, an Omaha attorney representing the Nebraska State Colleges Board of Trustees, countered that a jury “could not reasonably conclude the college had information that Keadle posed a serious risk of violence to another student.”

Judge Daniel Bryan Jr. said he would issue a ruling at a later date, The Omaha World-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/1gEhfmP ).

On June 29, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed the family’s wrongful death lawsuit against Nebraska college officials, saying that while officials could have done more to protect Thomas, the decision to not expel Keadle for prior sexual harassment claims didn’t rise to the level of deliberate indifference by college officials.

The family plans to appeal the dismissal of the federal lawsuit, Powers said.

Authorities say Keadle told them 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 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.

Keadle declined through a prison spokesman to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday.

A death certificate was issued for Thomas in 2013, although her body hasn’t been found.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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