Brother-in-law of Abilene murder victim released from jail after bond reduction
By Natalie Martinez & Andrew McMillan/KTXS News
ABILENE, Texas -- The brother-in-law of murdered real estate agent Thomas Niblo , 45-year-old Luke Sweetser, was released from jail Friday, just hours after his bond for a theft charge was reduced from $400,000 to $75,000.
This comes on the same day that search warrant affidavits which allude to Sweetser as a suspect in Niblo's murder were unsealed. Niblo, 54, was killed on Dec. 12 after being shot eight times in his Woodridge Drive home.
Sweetser had been held in the Taylor County Jail since Dec. 14 for theft of a firearm, and Abilene police said that arrest was connected to the Niblo murder investigation. Abilene attorney Randy Wilson reported the theft of several of his firearms from a safe inside a downtown Abilene office building. A search of a warehouse under Sweetser's control resulted in the seizure of multiple weapons.
During Sweetser's bond reduction hearing Friday, his lead counsel, Doug Mulder, called bail bondsman Cory Lee to the stand.
Lee told the court he had never seen a bond set so high for Sweetser's charge. He also said he was aware that Sweetser is married with two children, one of whom has special needs. Lee then acknowledged that Sweetser has no criminal record.
Taylor County District Attorney Jim Hicks asked Lee if he was aware that Sweetser was a Mexican citizen and that he generates about $10,000 a month in income. Lee said he knew that Sweetser's Mexican and American passports were currently in custody of the state. Lee added that he has bounty hunters in Mexico and that he has retrieved a bail jumper from Mexico before.
Lee said he didn't consider Sweetser a flight risk.
The state called on Abilene Police Detective Gabriel Thompson, who investigates financial crimes, to examine Sweetser's financial records, specifically with First Financial Bank. Thompson said Sweetser had more than $174,000 across five accounts but that dropped to less than $43,000 between November and December.
Judge Thomas Wheeler noted the transfer of money is suspicious.
Sweetser's defense claimed there was no probable cause for the search warrant filed to check Sweetser's safe where the alleged stolen guns were found. Hicks retorted saying most search warrants based on speculations.
Mulder argued the bond for a theft of firearm charge was excessive and recommended a $5,000 to $10,000 bond due to Sweetser's ties to the community. His co-counsel,
Lynn Ingalsbe previously told KTXS police arbitrarily came up with the $400,000 bond because they don't want his client to get out of jail.
Wheeler said he expected to hear more from the prosecution during Friday's hearing. He then approved the reduction of Sweetser's bond to $75,000.
Sweetser was released from jail at 1 p.m.
A couple of other motions have also been filed in the case. Sweetser's wife, Ellouise, is his attorney of record. Now that Sweetser has hired Ingalsbe, they filed a motion to have her removed.
Ingalsbe also filed a motion for examining trial so prosecutors can "prove probable cause which justifies (Sweetser's) arrest."