Unsolved Homicide: 1 year since Abilene realtor Tom Niblo shot and killed

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - In December of 2016, an esteemed Abilene realtor was fatally shot as he lay in bed, leading police on a hunt for his killer that has spanned an entire year with no end in sight. 

Tuesday marks the 1-year anniversary of the morning Tom Niblo, 54, was shot and killed inside his home on the 3700 block of Woodridge Drive - a crime that would leave investigators guessing from the beginning, as there were no signs of forced entry and minimal evidence left at the scene. 

Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge told KTAB and KRBC that in the months following Niblo's murder, 33 search warrants were executed and "countless" items of evidence were seized. 

During one of those search warrant executions, investigators found several stolen firearms inside a safe belonging to Niblo's brother-in-law, Luke Sweetser, 46, who remains the only publicly identified person-of-interest in the homicide. 

Court documents state detectives began investigating Sweetser because he and his wife, Ellouise Niblo Sweetser, were upset because upset because Tom and his mother were made executors of their late father's will, but Ellouise was excluded.

Evidence suggests the disagreement between Niblo and the Sweetsers escalated at times, court documents stating investigators, "discovered that often Ellouise would forward emails to Luke about the tension in the family and about the Niblo [father's] estate". Sweetser also has no known alibi for the morning of the murder. 

No charges have been filed against Sweetser or any other suspect for Niblo's death to-this-date, though Sweetser is facing a Theft of Firearms charge for the stolen weapons found inside his safe, a case which is still making its way through the court system

"Significant gains" undisclosed over fears of jeopardizing investigation 

Chief Standridge says he formed a task-force on the Niblo murder in mid-2017 and now has 3 supervisors working full-time to solve the crime.

Police have been vigilant about not jeopardizing this case, so much of the investigation has been conducted behind closed doors.

The first on-camera comment on the investigation came during a June press conference, where Sergeant Willie Ford revealed there was just "not enough evidence" to make an arrest for Niblo's death. 

This press conference came two months after Chief Standridge asked KTAB News to pull a special report on Niblo's murder due to "significant gains" in the case. Detectives were "hopeful for breaking news soon", but those "significant gains" were never disclosed. 

Chief Standridge wants to assure the public "that the Police Department is fully committed to filing this case for successful prosecution. The Department has not released everything it knows, and nor should it. There is a reason the State Legislature exempts law enforcement from releasing details of active criminal investigations."

Niblo's murder is one of 9 unsolved homicides out of a reported 110 have that occurred within Abilene city limits over the past 2 decades. 

A man of intellect, family values, and philanthropy 

Attorney Robert Wagstaff remembers Niblo, the godfather of his children, as a loyal long-time friend whose decades of companionship will be cherished.

In a statement, Wagstaff described Niblo as "extremely smart and funny with a dry, clever wit. Although he came across sometimes as gruff or aloof, he was neither of those. He had a keen intellect, was well versed in current affairs and could speak with authority on a number of subjects."

The statement also highlighted Niblo's love for Abilene, philanthropy, and his family, who Wagstaff says was "his sustaining strength". 

Wagstaff believes "APD is doing a great job running down each lead and rumor and ruling out all the extraneous and erroneous theories", and that "the lack of public outcry probably has more to do with the fact that most of Tom’s friends and acquaintances know that complaining does not truly effect justice in the end."

He, along with the rest of Abilene, is just waiting for the day Niblo, "a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good brother and a good friend", can rest in peace. 

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