ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. –
On May 10, 2006 in the mid-western city of Omaha, Nebraska, a teenager named Jessica O’Grady went to her boyfriend’s home. The University of Nebraska student and waitress intended to tell him that she was pregnant, according to, then, Detective Eric Nordby, who is currently the Command Chief Warrant Officer for the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command. The following day she failed to show up for work.
Her aunt and friends became concerned and contacted police to report her missing. A few days later, on May 16th, the case was assigned to Omaha police detective Eric Nordby.
“Missing person cases were not my primary function, although I’ve handled other missing person cases,” said Nordby, a 19-year-veteran of the Omaha Police Department and eight years of service with the Fremont, Nebraska Police Department who currently works in his civilian capacity as an internal affairs investigator.
“This case got my attention because (in this case) I had a 19-year-old teenager that had multiple contacts with multiple people and that all stopped abruptly the night of May 10th. On this case I worked 33 hours straight. Most people don’t have that drive but military people understand it,” explained Nordby as he reflected on the case he worked on more than 13 years ago.
At the time, O’Grady’s boyfriend, Christopher Edwards, had not been interviewed by police.
“I needed to find out what happened the night she went to talk with him,” said Nordby. “I was able to locate the boyfriend and conduct a lengthy interview with him at police headquarters.”
According to the 30-year-Army veteran, Edwards initially appeared helpful but, in fact, resulted in being evasive.
“He claimed that he and O’Grady decided not to meet on the night of May 10. He said she did not come to his home. On May 11th he sent a text to her to find out why she did not come over,” explained Nordby.
What the suspect did not know is Nordby had O’Grady’s phone records.
“After May 10th, he sends her a text and there’s no more texts after that. He didn’t call the police, he didn’t call O’Grady’s parents. He just stopped trying to contact her and, of course, that raised a red flag with me,” said Nordby.
Edwards also claimed O’Grady visited his house on the night of May 9th which proved false after Nordby talked with her family and friends. Following the interview with Edwards, a consent search was conducted at Edward’s residence.
Nordby said, “Initially, I found specks of blood and then a large amount of blood, which led me to believe she did not survive the attack.”
Nordby added that a search warrant was authorized, which led to a full search of his bedroom inside the home that Edwards shared with his aunt. Police also discovered a store receipt from May 11th that showed Edwards purchased white out and white shoe polish from a drug store.
“We secured footage from the drug store showing him make the purchase. He was trying to cover up blood spots with it. Additionally, at least five days after the fact when I looked at her bank and telephone records, she had not touched either. She had received calls but no calls were sent or outgoing,” said Nordby.
The family of O’Grady came to police headquarters the day after police executed the search warrant.
“There was some relief. Her aunt was very realistic,” explained Nordby. “She understood this was not a rescue mission. It was a recovery.”
On May 16th, police located O’Grady’s car.
“It was parked near her workplace where her boyfriend also worked,” Nordy said.
Ultimately, Edwards was convicted of the murder of Jessica O’Grady in April 2007. According to the KETV-TV Omaha website Edwards is serving 80 years to life after he was sentenced by a Douglas County District judge.
“This is the only case in Nebraska where somebody has been prosecuted and convicted without a body or without a confession,” explained Nordby. “If we had found tissue it would have been easier to prove death. In this case we only had blood.
Nordby is also quick to point out the conviction of Edwards was the result of a cooperative team effort.
“This is a team. It’s not just me. Omaha Police took the initial report and began the investigation which led to finding the crime scene within the Douglas County (NE) Sheriff’s Office, which gave them ultimate jurisdiction to conduct the investigation,” said Nordby. “This isn’t an Eric got the conviction. This was a team from OPD, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, crime labs and others that got the conviction for Jessica.”
Nordby said the values he learned as an Army Reserve Soldier have served him well too.
“It comes back to the Army values. It’s a pretty good set of values to live by. Selfless service is the one that helped me on this case.”