TAYLOR COUNTY, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Testimony during Day two of the trial in the murder of Abilene realtor Tom Niblo was very personal, with his wife taking the stand for hours, followed by a detective who first made contact with the suspect, who says he didn’t want to talk because he didn’t have an alibi.
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Cheryl Niblo’s testimony began with prosecutors asking about Tom’s relationship with his family. She revealed that although Tom was close with his parents, Evelyn and Syd Niblo, his relationship with his sister Ellousie had grown more and more estranged since their father’s death in June of 2016 – six months prior to Tom’s Murder that December.
She revealed that Ellousie and Tom were involved in a dispute because Tom was named as the executive of his father’s will and a managing partner in the family LLC, but Ellousie was left out.
Cheryl said the Thanksgiving before Tom was shot and killed in bed at their home on Woodridge Drive, there was a family meeting between Tom, Evelyn and Ellousie. After that meeting, she learned that Ellousie was wanting to become co-manager of the LLC and that Tom was concerned because if that were to happen, she would be able to take money from the LLC account as she pleased.
Prosecutors then switched to questioning Cheryl about her version of events the morning of December 12, 2016.
Cheryl described waking up at 6:09 a.m., which was later than she intended, so she rushed into the bathroom to take her thyroid medication, and that’s when she heard her bedroom door creak open.
As she walked over to her slightly ajar bathroom door to investigate, Cheryl said she heard loud noises that took her a second to realize were gunshots.
Recounting, Cheryl said she quickly but quietly shut and locked the bathroom door, and hid in another area of the bathroom until she heard the intruder start to “manipulate” the door. She then fled for her life, through the shower and into an area of the bathroom that had a door to the outside.
Cheryl then fled toward her neighbor’s house, but instead of taking an easier path, she decided to scale a large concrete wall because she was afraid the intruder would see her if she walked past the part of her house that was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
When she got to her neighbor’s backyard, Cheryl said she realized she was holding her thyroid medication and even attempted to take a pill before leaving the bottle in they yard at her neighbor’s house, then fleeing across South 14th Street to River Oaks Boulevard.
On the witness stand, Cheryl said she remembered running into a person who was bundled up and unrecognizable on River Oaks, and she didn’t know if this person was the intruder, but said she felt she had “nothing to lose” at that point, and just needed to get help.
When she contacted this person for their cell phone, she recognized the pedestrian to be family friend Kelly Kinard. He then helped her call 9-1-1, then they both went to a friend’s house close by, on River Oaks Boulevard.
During her testimony, Cheryl did note that she thought it was strange that none of her three dogs, who were all in the bedroom when Tom was shot and killed, barked or alerted she and her husband to the intruder.
Cheryl said her dogs typically barked at everyone, even people they know. She did recall hearing them whimpering when the gunshots happened, causing her to think they had been hit. However, it was later revealed that all three dogs were unharmed.
At the end of their examination of Cheryl, prosecutors asked about a dark time in her marriage to Tom Niblo.
Tom and Cheryl’s marriage was in a good place the day of his death, according to Cheryl’s testimony. But three years earlier, in 2013, she said she gave him an ultimatum because she said he was drinking heavily and found women’s clothing that was not hers.
Cheryl told the jury that Tom admitted to her that he would cross-dress.
It was then revealed that Tom went to a hotel the night she gave him that ultimatum, and Cheryl said she later learned he secretly rented an apartment in Abilene during this time, but he only spent one day there- to her knowledge.
After his hotel stay, Cheryl said Tom decided to go to a rehab program for his battles with alcoholism, cross-dressing, and pornography addiction. She said she believed that he remained recovered through his death.
However, Cheryl did say she was contacted by his sponsor once, who warned he may be relapsing by way of cross-dressing.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Lynn Ingalsbe also asked about him possibly relapsing and taking trips to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) for his “alternative lifestyle.” Cheryl confirmed he did take weekly trips, but said they were for counseling sessions.
Ingalsbe continued on, and asked Cheryl about a potential second secret apartment in DFW where he stayed during these trips, but Cheryl said she had no knowledge of any other apartments.
Lastly, Cheryl revealed some weird happenings around her home involving suspect, Luke Sweetser and his family. Sweetser is Tom’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Ellousie.
After Tom was killed, Cheryl said she found Sweetser’s two sons in the creek behind her home. She recalled that one was hiding in the trees with a backpack, and when she asked the other what he was doing, he lied and said he was alone. She then called him out and told both the boys to leave and never come back.
When asked why the couple installed a security alarm, Cheryl replied it was because of the Sweetser family that they felt they needed extra security. She learned Luke, Ellouise, and their sons would go into their house on Woodridge Drive when they were away.
Cheryl said she never noticed anything missing, but had no idea what they would do in there, and said they were not welcome.
Cross-examination from the defense involved more questioning about the Niblos’ marriage and Tom’s “alternative lifestyle.”
Attorney Ingalsbe also wanted to note that Ellousie was never set to become an executor of Syd Niblo’s will if Tom were killed, because the alternate executive named was First Financial Bank.
A search for shoes and Sweetser admits he has ‘no alibi’: 2 more APD witnesses take the stand
Following Cheryl’s long testimony, two more Abilene police employees took the stand.
The first was Officer Randy Farmer, who worked forensics at Woodridge Drive during the murder investigation.
Officer Farmer was primarily in charge of photographing, and also took on the investigation into trying to find the shoe which left a seemingly muddy print on the door to the bathroom where Cheryl Niblo was hiding the morning Tom was killed.
On the witness stand, Officer Farmer said he searched online for a possible match to a partial tread print on the door. He said he processed several pairs of boots, including three obtained during a search warrant execution from the Sweetser residence on Sylvan Drive.
None of the boots were able to be matched to the print, the officer revealed. A DPS lab even further investigated the most promising pair, but said the print was too faint to make a match.
Officer Farmer said he also processed the clothing Cheryl was wearing the morning of the murder, noting a few potential blood spots on her pajama bottoms. Officer Farmer said these spots could have been from something else, like bleach or fruit juice, and he was never given the lab results so he personally could not testify to what the spots actually were.
Following Farmer’s testimony was Detective Mike Scott, who was tasked with contacting Sweetser after the crime.
Detective Scott said it’s common practice to speak with family members and friends after a homicide, and that Sweetser was not a person of interest at the time.
Eventually, Detective Scott made contact with Sweetser at ATEMS high school, where his son attended class.
An audio recording of this interaction was played in court. Detective Scott could be heard introducing himself to Sweetser. He’s then heard saying he was questioning all family members, and asked Sweester if he would come to the law enforcement center to talk.
Sweetser replied, “No. I do not have an alibi.” He then said that he would only talk in the presence of an attorney, because that’s what his wife advised him to do.
Both Officer Farmer and Detective Scott were involved in numerous search warrants executed during the investigation.
So far, testimony in court has revealed the Niblo home on Woodridge Drive was searched numerous times, as well as the Sweetser home on Sylvan Drive, the Niblo family storage facility on Mesquite Street, a separate storage facility on North 1st Street, and the Alexander Building downtown – which was controlled by the Niblo family. Tom and Syd Niblo, and Sweetser all had offices there.
Despite all of the searching, neither of these officers found items of evidence connected to the Sweetsers or their home. However, they were not aware of what other officers may have found.
Day three of the trial is set to resume Thursday morning. Stick with BigCountryHomepage.com for the latest information.