TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (BigCountryHomepage.com) ― The Murder trial of Abilene realtor, Tom Niblo began Tuesday, August 23. Niblo’s brother-in-law, Luke Sweetser is accused of killing Tom on the morning of December 12, 2016 in Niblo’s South Abilene home. Out of the trial, attorneys have brought many people to the witness stand to testify.
This condensed article will be continuously updated as new information becomes available.
Quick jumps: Trial day 1 → trial day 2 → trial day 3 → trial day 4 → trial day 5 → trial day 6 → verdict
As according to the courts:
3700 block of Woodridge Drive on December 12, 2016
- The morning began with Cheryl waking up late, running to the bathroom.
- She then heard multiple gunshots and hides within the bathroom
- Cheryl escapes when she hears the intruder attempting to enter the bathroom
- She runs out an exit door from her bathroom which leads to the backyard
- Cheryl hops a fence to get to her neighbor, but they’re not home
- She runs across South 14th Street, where she sees a pedestrian who she later identifies to be her friend
- With Kelly Kinard’s cellphone, Cheryl calls 9-1-1 to report that her husband had been killed
- The two go to another friend’s home nearby until police arrive
- Police discover Tom Niblo in a pool of blood in his bed
- One of the Niblos’ dogs was lying with him, also covered in blood. The dog was unharmed
- Police find muddy tracks, and a muddy footprint on the bathroom door
- Luke Sweetser, Niblo’s brother-in-law, is contacted out of investigation protocol
- Sweetser refuses to speak with police without a lawyer
- DNA evidence found in the Niblo home not connected to Sweetser
- Police discover overwhelming electronic evidence at a business belonging to the Niblo family
- Murder weapon discovered at a creek in 2018 by a teenager
Trial day 1 recap
What happened that day?
Opening statements Tuesday morning included prosecutors detailing the events of the morning that Niblo was killed and how a murder weapon wasn’t discovered until two years later.
2 APD officers take the stand: Tom not dead, officer speculates inside job
Testimony first began with two Abilene Police Department (APD) officers who were among the first on scene. The officers described the scene when they got there, and one said Niblo wasn’t quite passed when they arrived. This officer described seeing the man lying in bed, next to a dog in a pool of blood, gurgling as he died. The other officer said he could believe the murder was an ‘inside job.’
Woman officer called in to assist in examination of Cheryl Niblo
A woman officer with APD was requested, as is usual in cases involving other women. This officer testified that Cheryl, Niblo’s wife was calm when the two first spoke.
Forensic expert testifiesm no DNA found connects Luke to Niblo crime scene
After breaking for lunch, the trial continued with testimony from a forensics expert with APD.
This expert testified that she took extensive photos of the crime scene and processed the entire Niblo house, taking DNA from wherever she could find. None of the DNA discovered matched lead suspect, Luke Sweetser.
Extensive electronic evidence discovered
Next to take the stand was an APD detective, initially called in to use a drone to figure out how the intruder entered the home. He said he didn’t touch the case again until a year later when he reviewed an overwhelming amount of electronic evidence.
Tom Niblo urgently requests home security system
Ending day one’s witness list was the previous owner of the business that installed a home security system for the Niblos. He testified that he couldn’t remember exactly when the system was installed, but recalled a sense of urgency out of Niblo’s request.
The day Niblo was killed, the security system never alerted authorities to an intrusion.
List of those who testified Tuesday, trial day 1:
- Officer Brent Payne
One of first responding officers at Niblo crime scene
- Officer Chris Lazirko
One of first responding officers at Niblo crime scene
- Officer Mary Guitar
Officer who questioned and examined Niblo’s widow, Cheryl
- Diana Arndt
APD forensics expert
- Detective Lynn Beard
Called to figure out how intruder entered home, reviewed evidence a year later
- Turner Cariker
Previous owner of business that installed a security system at the Niblo home
Trial day 2 recap
‘I just heard so many shots, please help:’ 9-1-1 call made after Tom’s death played aloud
Wednesday, day two in the Niblo Murder Trial, began with the audio recording of the call Niblo’s wife, Cheryl, made to 9-1-1. She called from the cellphone of a family friend who Cheryl ran into while fleeing her home after hearing gunshots.
It was noted that Cheryl behaved in a distressed manner during the call, crying into the receiver.
“I just heard so many shots,” Cheryl told dispatchers. “Please help.”
Cheryl’s first contact after her husband’s death takes the stand
After playing the call aloud to the courtroom, the family friend who ran into Cheryl on the street took the stand.
This witness confirmed that Cheryl was frightened and spoke of an intruder, shots fired and her husband.
Medical examiner says Tom was shot 8 times
The jury next heard testimony from a Medical Examiner out of Tarrant County, who performed the autopsy on Niblo’s body.
The doctor confirmed that Niblo was shot eight times and five bullets were recovered from his body. He was also able to determine that two of the gunshots were fired about three or four feet away.
Cheryl Niblo testifies in her husband’s Murder trial
Just ahead of breaking for lunch, Cheryl Niblo took the stand.
Mrs. Niblo’s testimony began with details about Mr. Niblo’s relationship with his family, Cheryl telling the jury that he and his sister, Ellouise were nearly estranged. It is Ellouise’s husband, Luke, who is accused of Niblo’s murder.
Prosecutors then asked Cheryl to describe the events of the day her husband was killed. She detailed waking up late, rushing to the bathroom, then hearing gunshots and hiding in her bathroom. She said she escaped her home when she heard the bathroom doorknob jiggling.
Cheryl continued on to describe her run-in with Kinard, using his phone, then the two going to another friend’s home nearby.
Prosecutors ask about the Niblo marriage, testimony gets personal
It was then that Cheryl was asked to describe her marriage with Tom. She said when he died, their relationship was great. Prosecutors asked about a rough time in their marriage three years earlier.
Cheryl revealed that she gave him an ultimatum, alluding that she’d leave him if he didn’t stop drinking. She also said she found women’s clothing that did not belong to her, and instead, belonged to Tom.
According to Cheryl’s testimony, Tom admitted to her that he had been cross-dressing, had a secret apartment and was battling more addictions.
Tom allegedly went to rehab for cross-dressing, and addictions including alcoholism and pornography. Cheryl said he was recovered and their marriage was doing well.
Lastly, Cheryl said leading up to her husband’s death, his sister and her family had been acting strangely. She said she found her nephews behind her home and the family would enter the Niblo home while they were away. This is what she said led to installing a security system.
Muddy shoeprints never match, results missing in possible blood on Cheryl’s clothing
After Cheryl left the stand, an APD forensics officer was called to the stand. This officer said he was tasked with crime scene photography and tracking a muddy shoe print.
This officer said he could never find a shoe matching the muddy print on a door within the Niblo home. He also processed Cheryl’s clothing which had possible blood stains on them, but never received any results.
‘I do not have an alibi’: APD detective makes contact with Murder suspect Luke Sweetser
Wrapping up day two, an APD detective on the case was called to testify.
This detective said he made first contact with Sweetser after the crime, but he wasn’t a suspect at the time. At this point, it was just protocol.
Upon contacting Sweetser at ATEMS High School, an audio recording was played before the courtroom. There, the detective was heard introducing himself to Sweetser asking him to talk at the police station.
Sweetser was recorded saying, “No. I do not have an alibi.” He then said that he would only talk in the presence of an attorney, as his wife advised.
List of those who testified Wednesday, trial day 2:
- Kelly Kinard
Niblo family friend, Cheryl’s first contact after fleeing home
- Dr. Richard Fries
Tarrant County Medical Examiner, performed Tom Niblo’s autopsy
- Cheryl Niblo
Tom Niblo’s wife
- Officer Randy Farmer
On APD forensics team, Niblo crime scene photography & tracking muddy shoe print
- Detective Mike Scott
Made first contact with Sweetser after the crime
Trial day 3 recap
Luke’s co-worker recalls him being late to work the morning of Tom’s murder & being upset with Tom
First to take the witness stand in day 3 of Tom Niblo’s Murder trial was a former co-worker of Murder suspect, Luke Sweetser, at Blue Cross Blue Shield.
This witness listed nothing out of the ordinary regarding Sweetser as a person. He said he was always on time, if not early. But on the morning of the murder, he was hours late to work and when he did show up he left very soon after.
Sweetser’s co-worker also recalled a time when Sweetser confided in him about his brother-in-law. By witness account, Sweetser was upset by Niblo calling Sweetser’s son the R-slur.
APD detective testifies to making contact with Ellouise, finds weapons during search warrant
Next, another detective with APD spoke. This detective testified to first speaking with Ellouise Sweetser (née Niblo, now Campbell). He said she refused to answer his questions and didn’t know where her husband was.
This detective said he also assisted in executing search warrants. During one search, he testified to discovering multiple weapons hidden in a crate of camping gear at a warehouse.
First Niblo family member talks, recalls financial issues with Ellouise
Tom and Ellouise’s mother was called to the witness stand next.
Their mother revealed that her daughter asked her for money, and was working towards obtaining a greater share of the Niblo family money.
She also said a spare key that opened her home, as well as the home of Tom and Cheryl. That key went missing around the time of Tom’s murder, and has not been found since. She testified that Luke was the only person who knew where she kept the key.
Tom’s daughter speaks to legalizing Syd Niblo’s will, noting Ellouise’s defiance
Ahead of the lunch break, Tom’s daughter took the witness stand.
As the Niblo LLC was a family business, Tom’s daughter was the attorney handling the will of Syd Niblo, Tom’s father. His daughter recalled the will making Tom the head of the family estate and Ellouise being upset by this.
Syd Niblo’s representative speaks to his will and estate, recalls Ellouise’s disinterest when it was formed & her endless questions the year of Syd and Tom’s deaths
As the courtroom gallery, jurors and other necessary parties filed back in after breaking for lunch, an attorney representing Syd Niblo, Tom’s father, was called to the stand.
The attorney attested to the legalities regarding Syd’s will and estate, including how Evelyn and Ellouise had a smaller stock in the family LLC.
Syd Niblo passed away in June of 2016, and Tom was killed December 2016. In February 2017, two months since Tom’s death, the attorney noted a meeting regarding how to move forward because the two heads of the estate had died. Instead of going to either Evelyn or Ellouise, the estate went to First Financial Bank.
Wrapping up his testimony, the attorney said Ellouise had not been involved or interested in the LLC when it was formed 10 years earlier, but began asking lots of questions the year her father and brother died.
Ellouise testifies on events leading to her brother’s death
Jumping to a witness the gallery was excited to hear from, Ellouise Campbell (née Niblo, and previously Sweetser) headed up to testify.
Campbell testified that she and her brother had good relationships with their father, she also confirmed being somewhat estranged from Tom and Cheryl.
She said she did not know where her husband-at-the-time, Luke Sweetser was when her brother was murdered. Campbell told the jury she left a message with Sweetser before 4:00 a.m., and didn’t hear from him until after 9:00 that morning.
Campbell admitted to working towards having herself and her mother named as signers on the family’s checking account before Tom’s death, but he was not receptive to the idea.
She recalled drafting documents to gain more control, and having a heated argument about it with her brother a month before his death. Just days before his murder, Tom allegedly apologized to his sister with an email.
As for the missing key from her mother, Ellouise Campbell said there was no way Luke had it and her family never went to the Niblo home while they were away.
APD calls in FBI to assist in processing vast amounts of electronic evidence seized from the Sweetsers
Next to take the stand was another APD detective, who testified to assisting in the seizure of all electronics at the Sweetser home.
This detective also helped seize more electronics from offices Luke Sweetser had access to within a Downtown Abilene building. As Sweetser got additional phones, those were also seized.
There was so much electronic evidence to process that the FBI was called in to assist.
Detectives discover weapons, Sweetser documents in Niblo family warehouse
Last up in day three’s trial was another APD detective who said he interviewed Cheryl Niblo, Tom’s widow. Her statement remained consistent, according to the detective.
He also assisted in searching the family warehouse, where the detective said he found multiple weapons and firearm accessories. A separate search warrant had to be executed to go through documents belonging to Luke Sweetser, found in a gun safe.
List of those who testified Thursday, trial day 3:
- Chris Tucker
Luke Sweetser’s former co-worker at Blue Cross Blue Shield
- Det. Frank Shoemaker
With APD, first questioned Tom’s sister, assisted in search warrant executions
- Evelyn Niblo
Mother of Tom and Ellouise, widow of Syd Niblo
- Elizabeth Wallace (née Niblo)
Daughter of Tom and Cheryl, attorney for Niblo family
- Thomas Choate
Attorney representing Syd Niblo
- Anne “Ellouise” Campbell (née Niblo, and previously Sweetser)
Sister to Tom Niblo, wife-at-the-time to Luke Sweetser
- Det. Tim Pipes
With APD, assisted in seizure of Sweetser electronics
- Det. Jeff Cowan
Interviewed Tom’s widow, helped search Niblo family warehouse
Trial day 4 recap
Much of the first half of day four’s trial on Friday was spent with two detectives on the case, going over suspicious phone activity and noting that Ellouise was uncooperative with police for about four months.
Oddly timed phone calls and Tom’s neighbor never answers her door
One detective who testified said he began his part in Tom’s murder investigation by canvassing the neighborhood. He said he interviewed Tom and Cheryl’s next-door neighbor, who reported hearing banging at her backdoor sometime after 6:00 the morning Tom was killed.
This detective also spoke on some evidence found on Murder suspect, Luke Sweetser’s phone. It was around 3:45 a.m. that Ellouise called Luke’s phone and left a message. Luke didn’t call back until after 9:00 that morning.
At the end of this detective’s testimony, he recalled not searching the creek behind the Niblo home because the water level was high that morning. Later on, it was revealed in court that a Texas DPS dive team never found anything in the creek, either.
‘One of the most brutal murders’: Lead detective testifies to Luke & Ellouise’s financial problems and what they could gain with a bigger stake in the family LLC
Next to take the witness stand was a lead detective on the case. He testified to lab results confirming no blood on Cheryl’s (Tom’s wife) pajamas and her hands also came back clear of gunshot residue. He also confirmed not finding Luke’s DNA in the Niblo home. However, two guns had been seized – one belonging to Tom and one belonging to Luke.
The lead detective corroborated the previous detective’s account, confirming the oddly timed phone calls.
Evidence was exhibited in court, displaying Luke’s employment history. He began working at Blue Cross Blue Shield in November 2016 and every day before Tom’s murder, he was always on time or early.
The lead detective continued his testimony to discovering that Luke and Ellouise were going through financial woes around the days of the murder, discovered through records and journals belonging to Luke. However, the Sweetser couple did not profit directly after Tom’s murder but taking away Tom’s vote, Ellouise had a little more power with the family LLC. It was also revealed that the Sweetsers were actively working towards naming Ellouise as executor of her father’s will.
During his testimony, Detective Wilson noted this was, “One of the most brutal murders [he’s] ever seen in [his] career.”
After breaking for lunch, the trial resumed with more testimonies from APD personnel on Tom’s case. From there, it was discovered that Luke’s internet search history was especially suspect. Plus, a teen joked about finding a murder weapon, only to find out he actually did just that.
APD, FBI search Luke Sweetser’s computers & phones, discover incriminating emails and files
Court came back to session by hearing testimony from an APD sergeant who reviewed digital evidence seized from Luke Sweetser.
The sergeant testified to discovering dozens of files, emails, pictures, internet searches and additional items of interest on Luke’s devices. Most notably, emails regarding the family partnership and arrest insurance, as well as a PowerPoint titled, ‘What Makes Serial Killers Tick.’
Afterwards, an FBI agent was briefly in the spotlight to confirm that his agency investigated an amount of electronic data as requested by APD.
Tom’s widow is cleared to go about her life & is there such thing as ‘too much evidence?’
Following the member of the FBI was another APD sergeant who supervised the Niblo homicide investigation. He recalled thinking it had to be a crime of passion due to the brutal nature of Tom’s death – shot eight times, two shots to the face, and nothing stolen from the home.
This sergeant also recalled interviewing Tom’s widow, Cheryl four months after his murder. He testified to using certain interviewing tactics and noted that Cheryl stayed completely composed and her story remained consistent. She was then cleared as a person of interest in her husband’s murder investigation.
Later, the supervisor testified to a lot of the overwhelming digital evidence found among Luke’s belongings. Evidence including a machete, emails and files regarding the Niblo estate, an Amazon purchase from a knife company and laminated pornographic images.
‘Look, it’s a murder weapon’: Boy finds murder weapon registered to Luke Sweetser while playing along Abilene creek
The trial’s sixth witness of the day was a 16-year-old boy who described finding the actual murder weapon two years after the fact, while playing at his grandparents’ house. The teenager said he went to the creek to explore and saw a cool ball. But when he went to grab it, he noticed what he thought was a toy gun.
The boy recalled the gun looking like it had been there for some time. He said he used a stick to bring it back to show his grandparents what he’d found – he said he even walked in the house, jokingly saying, “Look, it’s a murder weapon!”
The boy’s grandfather took the stand next to confirm his grandson’s account. He said he recalled thinking it could be Tom’s murder weapon and called police.
Lastly, another APD officer quickly took the witness stand to testify to collecting the gun. Photos from evidence showed it to be heavily caked in dirt, after it had been missing from Dec. 2016 until it was discovered in 2018.
List of those who testified Friday, trial day 4:
- Det. Jonathan Merrick
APD detective, canvassed neighborhood
- Det. John Wilson
Lead detective on Tom Niblo Murder case
- Sgt. Chris Milliron
APD sergeant, reviewed evidence discovered on Luke’s digital devices
- Harem Naguib
FBI personnel, helped investigate electronic data
- Sgt. Will Ford
Lead supervisor for Niblo Homicide investigation
- Hayden Hall
Discovered murder weapon near creek
- Donald Steele
Hayden’s grandfather, reported weapon
- Officer Chris Hall
APD officer who booked murder weapon into evidence
Trial day 5 recap
Is this gun an acceptable weapon?
The reconvening of Tom Niblo’s Murder trial after the weekend was largely spent with council arguing about a murder weapon being legally acceptable.
An APD sergeant first testified Monday to searching the murder weapon – a gun found in a creek behind a South Leggett Drive home in 2018. He said it had never been reported stolen. The gun was found by a teenager up to 1,000 feed from the Niblo home.
Next, an ATF agent took the stand to speak on his investigation. That query produced the ownership history of the gun. It was purchased in 2000 by murder suspect, Luke Sweetser.
Before the next set of witnesses could testify, Sweetser’s attorney attempted to block the expert witnesses due to qualifications. However, Judge Hamilton overruled.
First up was the owner of a private forensic business. He said APD brought him the gun to test but couldn’t do so because it was so rusted. He said he was eventually able to make the gun operational once again through a special cleaning solution. The gun was tested using different brands of bullets, which were sent to the next witness for further testing.
The next expert witness owns a ballistics lab, but retired from working criminal cases. He also said the gun was inoperative in 2018 due to rust and returned it to APD. Instead, he tested the bullets fired by the previous witness.
Through comparison from the test bullets to the shell casings found at the crime scene, it was discovered that they were all fired by the same gun.
Phone data & more
After a break for lunch, the court’s time was dedicated to the phone data collected from Luke Sweetser.
Another sergeant with APD testified to helping analyze a large portion of electronic data connected to the case. He testified to the data of calls exchanged between Ellouise and Luke Sweetser the morning of Tom’s death. It was recorded that there were three outgoing calls to his wife and five incoming calls between 9:00 and 10:15 that morning – along with a few texts. Two voicemails were found from Ellouise around 3:45 a.m., as well.
Murder suspect routinely shuts phone off, but pings near Niblo family areas
It was noted that Luke’s phone was powered off from 7:00 p.m. December 11 until 9:00 a.m. December 12. However, it was discovered that this wasn’t that uncommon for Luke to shut his phone down at night.
What was out of the ordinary, according to the sergeant, was that his phone was turned back on just outside the Niblo Family Storage facility the morning of the murder. His phone was also pinged in several locations at or near the Niblo home 10 days before the murder.
During the weekend of December 2, 2016, it was reported that the Niblo family were away on vacation. Sweetser’s phone pinged six meters from their back door that day. This was the only time Luke was recorded at the Niblo home between October and December 2016. His location was picked up several times just blocks away from the Niblo home.
Diving into Ellouise’s cellphone data
Data from Ellouise’s cellphone showed multiple phone calls, missed or otherwise, between she and her husband.
In looking through a second phone she bought after her first phone was taken during investigations, a peculiar text message stood out. It was a photo of a letter in January 2017 sent from a third party to Ellouise. The letter was handwritten by Luke, advising Ellouise to “bully” the family into allowing her to manage the family partnership.
Data shows troubling search history from Sweetser devices
Four electronic devices were seized from the Sweetser home, by APD and FBI. The devices were reportedly used to access websites about guns, pro bono attorneys, a survivalist blog and lawyer ratings. More searches were made regarding weapons, state wills and LLC, Lynn Ingalsbe (Luke’s current attorney), the Niblo family partnership, and more murderous searches.
What’s more, it was revealed that a Dropbox account, accessed frequently by Sweetser, held files regarding the Niblo family. Files were placed in a digital recycling bin the night before Tom’s death.
To finish up Monday’s trial, data was revealed that Luke was looking at a map of Elm Creek behind the Niblo residence about 7:00 p.m. December 10.
This sergeant’s testimony will continue Tuesday.
List of those who testified Monday, trial day 5:
- Sgt. Mike Moschetto
Discovered murder weapon was never reported stolen
- Dale Watson
Special Agent with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
- Jeff Goudeau
Expert witness, owns private forensics business, tested gun
- Richard Earnest
Expert witness, owns ballistics lab, tested bullets
- Sgt. Paul Martinez
Analyzed electronic evidence
Trial day 6 recap
Journal entry: There are worse things than being a killer
Day six in trying Luke Sweetser for the murder of Tom Niblo marked the start of closing statements and the continued testimony to an Abilene Police Department sergeant, who analyzed a large amount of electronic evidence.
More evidence of motive was discovered in journals written by Luke Sweetser. This APD sergeant attested to reading entries including:
- “There are worse things than being a killer”
- “I hate myself… Tonight is the end of someone’s world”
- “I can shut off my empathy and kill”
‘He would never agree to this while he is alive’: Audio recording between Luke & Ellouise Sweetser reveal probable motive to kill
Also revealed in this sergeant’s testimony was an audio recording between Luke and Ellouise Sweetser. The recording referenced a meeting between Evelyn, Tom, Ellouise and some attorneys in October 2016 about giving more power in the Niblo LLC to Ellouise. The phrase, “he [Tom] would never agree to this while he is alive” was heard from Ellouise during this conversation.
Magazine discovered in Luke Sweetser’s apartment, fits weapon found in creek
To close out this sergeant’s testimony, he mentioned a magazine belonging to a Glock 40 caliber handgun found in Luke’s apartment when he was arrested for Tom’s murder. He testified to it fitting the handgun found in a creek in 2018.
‘Maybe Ellouise can forgive her brother’: Defense points to a softer side of murder suspect, Luke Sweetser
Luke Sweetser’s attorney began his cross examination of the sergeant by pointing out that just because Luke’s phone was located near the Niblo residence while they were away on vacation, didn’t necessarily mean it was Luke who had the phone.
The defense attorney also drew attention to a different kind of journal entry reading in part, “Tom Niblo is not a bad guy. . . he’s aright and maybe Ellouise can forgive her brother, and we can all go together to the ranch as a family.”
The defense rests in trying Luke Sweetser for the murder of Tom Niblo
Prosecution (Tom Niblo) and defense (Luke Sweetser) rested their cases following the final testimony. Closing arguments reviewed all that was revealed in the past 32 testimonies over the course of six days.
Jurors began deliberations around 3:00 p.m. and were in locked chambers until 10:30 Tuesday night. The court’s gallery anxiously waited to learn how the jury will find Luke Sweetser; guilty or not guilty.
List of those who testified Tuesday, trial day 6:
- Sgt. Paul Martinez
Analyzed electronic evidence
Day 7: The verdict is in
The jury in trying Luke Sweetser for the murder of Tom Niblo was in deliberations for around seven-and-a-half hours Tuesday, before breaking up for the night. The 12 reconvened at the Taylor County Courthouse at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.
‘Mistrial’ hangs in the balance after 5 hours of deliberations
After about five hours of deliberations Wednesday (12 total), the jury told Judge Hamilton they just could not come to a unanimous decision – hinting towards a hung jury. If a verdict could not be reached, the judge said a mistrial could be declared. The jury went back into chambers to deliberate some more.
GUILTY: Luke Sweetser is found guilty in the murder of Tom Niblo
At around 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, after a total of approximately 14 hours of deliberations, the jury found Luke Sweetser guilty.
Luke Sweetser was found guilty in the murder of his brother-in-law, Tom Niblo. The murder took place on the morning of Monday, December 12, 2016. Although Sweetser was arrested two days after Tom’s death on a charge for Theft of a Firearm (released a month later), he was arrested in September 2020 for Murder, after the presumed murder weapon was discovered in 2018. He was found guilty on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 31, 2022.
Day 8: Sentencing
After just about an hour of deliberations Thursday, the jury of Luke Sweetser’s trial in the Murder charge of Tom Niblo, a decision was made. Early on, Sweetser was looking at a sentence of 25 years to life, should he have been found guilty.
Luke Sweetser sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his brother-in-law
Sweetser was sentenced to life in prison nearly six years after Niblo was murdered. Niblo was shot and killed in his sleep on Monday, December 12, 2016. Sweetser was found guilty Wednesday, August 31, 2022 and sentenced the next day.
‘I think we need to love and forgive’: Sweetser talks punishment during sentencing hearing
Ahead of the jury’s sentencing decision, Luke Sweetser took the witness stand. Prosecutors asked him what he thinks should happen to someone who committed such a horrible murder, and Sweester replied, “I feel like you’re trying to trap me… I think we need to love and forgive,” he later bartered.
Prosecutors poked and prodded, figuratively, at Sweetser, asking him what could have gone through his mind when Tom was killed. To all of the many questions, Sweetser merely replied, “I can’t imagine.”
Luke Sweetser attempts to make ammends, says goodbye to Niblo family
Sweetser was also allowed to address the Niblo family. He told his former mother-in-law, Evelyn that the wedding she hosted for he and his ex-wife Ellouise was among his most cherished memories.
However, one of Tom’s children left the courtroom upon Sweetser’s testimony. He told the remaining children that his “heart breaks for them.” He also said Tom’s widow, Cheryl will remain in his thoughts and prayers. Cheryl was not present for Sweetser’s sentencing hearing.
‘Both families were rather dysfunctional’: Defense attorney reflects on loss of case
Niblo family friend, Robert Wagstaff, spoke with Big Country Homepage after sentencing, eager to get back to some sense of ‘normal.’
“They look forward to moving on from this and to getting as much of their life back and they have,” said Wagstaff. “They have done a good job of moving on before now.”
In reflection of the loss of his case, Sweetser’s attorney Lynne Ingalsbee – a prominent attorney with a bulldog courtroom reputation – said he was respectful of the jury’s ruling, but ultimately had to disagree. All the while, Ingalsbee alluded to no one party being the sole blame.
“Both families were rather dysfunctional, and probably, that’s what lead to this event,” Ingalsbee explained.
Ingalsbee continued on his trail of thought to convey a sense of gratitude about the ruling, “The only good thing about this, is it provides closure for both families.”
Along with Sweetser’s life sentence, he was also ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.
After sentencing, Sweetser was taken back to the Taylor County Jail, where he waits to be relocated to a federal prison.
That is all for the trial of Luke Sweetser for the murder of Abilene realtor and Sweetser’s brother-in-law, Tom Niblo. BigCountryHomepage.com will continue to provide extensive coverage into all coverage of major Big Country issues.