TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) ― Two Abilene police detectives who investigated the murder of Abilene realtor, Tom Niblo testified during Day four of the trial, revealing the suspect’s phone was off during the murder, then pinged at a suspicious location when it was turned on, and the wife of the suspect was not cooperative with officers for 120 days.
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First to testify was Detective Jonathan Merrick, who started off by talking about canvassing nearby neighbors the day of the crime.
He interviewed the next-door neighbor, who said she heard someone banging on her back door sometime after 6:00 a.m. December 12, 2016 – the morning Niblo was shot and killed at his home on Woodridge Drive.
This person also rang her front doorbell several times, but she never answered. The neighbor reported also finding a pill bottle on her fence.
Detective Merrick then spoke on some items of evidence he found on the cell phone of suspect Luke Sweetser, who was Niblo’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Ellouise.
Around 3:45 a.m. the morning of the murder, Ellouise called Luke Sweetser’s phone twice, asking where he was. One of the calls left a 90 second voice message, but that was not played in court.
Luke then called Ellouise back around 9:05 a.m., about three hours after Niblo was killed. The two met up to have a discussion around 9:18 that morning. They had a brief exchange via text message, trying to find each other when they arrived.
At the end of his testimony, Detective Merrick described Abilene police efforts to drag a magnet through the creek behind the Niblo home the day of the murder, and he said they didn’t find anything but also didn’t get too far down the creek because the water level was very high.
A Texas Department of Public Safety dive team also didn’t find anything in the creek, but Detective Merrick was unsure of how far down they searched.
Next, lead detective John Wilson took the stand, giving insight into the test results of a lot of evidence, which was previously mentioned during the trial.
Det. Wilson said no blood was found on the pajamas of Tom’s wife, Cheryl Niblo, though some preliminary spots were sent for further testing. Her hands were also clear of any gunshot residue.
He also confirmed that Luke’s DNA was not found on any items of evidence that were swabbed, including a machete found by the creek behind the Niblo home, all shell casings from the crime scene, as well as several areas and doors around the Niblo home. Det. Wilson then confirmed two 40 caliber guns seized during the investigation so far – one from Tom’s closet and one from Luke’s belongings at the Niblo family warehouse on Mesquite Street – were both cleared by ballistics testing from being the murder weapon.
Det. Wilson also talked more about Luke’s phone, saying it was turned off the night before and morning of the murder, until after 9:00 a.m., when it pinged near the Niblo Family Warehouse on Mesquite Street.
This was before Luke was informed of the homicide. In previous testimony, Ellouise confirmed she broke the news to him during the 9:05 a.m. phone call.
Instead, Luke was supposed to be at work. Detective Wilson discussed Luke’s work history, pulling up a time log from Blue Cross Blue Shield, where he began employment in November 2016.
The log showed Luke was on time or early every day but the day of the murder, December 12, 2016.
Detectives thought it was suspicious he was near Mesquite Street instead of at work, so they searched the Mesquite Heat warehouse extensively but found not items of evidence related to Tom’s murder.
Through financial records and personal journals belonging to Luke, Det. Wilson said he learned money was very important to the Sweetsers, and that they were struggling when the murder occurred.
Det. Wilson then confirmed that the Sweetsers did not directly profit after the murder, but he did say it gave her more power with the family LLC by taking away Tom Niblo’s vote.
He also revealed that Syd Niblo, the father of Tom and Ellouise, would give his children lots of money but when he died in June 2016, that stopped.
The Sweetsers were also, according to Det. Wilson, working towards changing Syd’s will because Tom was named as an executor and Ellouise was not, and they were trying to make changes to the LLC. Detective Wilson said he believed Tom was one obstacle that stood in the way of their efforts.
During his testimony, Detective Wilson noted this was, “One of the most brutal murders [he’s] ever seen in [his] career.”
BigCountryHomepage.com will continue to provides updates on testimony from court as Luke Sweetser stands trial for murder. Check back for the latest information.