Court documents: Brother-in-law of murdered Abilene realtor suspect in shooting death


ABILENE, Texas - Newly unsealed court documents reveal the brother-in-law of murdered Abilene realtor Thomas Niblo is a suspect in his death. They also reveal a possible motive for the murder.

Niblo was shot and killed around 6 a.m. Dec. 12 at his home in the 3700 block of Woodridge Drive.

According to a search warrant, Niblo's brother-in-law Luke Sweetser does not have an alibi for the time leading up to and during the murder -- and that he refused to speak with detectives for any reason.

The murder occurred at a time when Sweetser and his wife, Ellouise, were having "verbal disputes" with Niblo about "distribution of assets in the estate" of Niblo and Ellouise's late father.

The morning of Niblo's murder, Luke Sweetser's cell phone was turned off, according to court documents. His wife, Ellouise, "was frantically" looking for him. She called his phone and left a message.

After learning about Niblo's murder, police said Ellouise called her husband's cell phone again. The call lasted 68 seconds. During the call, police said Luke's phone was "at or near" a storage facility in the 300 block of Mesquite Street where stolen guns were later found.

Minutes later, Sweetser arrived late for work. He stayed "for a brief time" and then went to pick his 13-year-old son up from school.

In an administrator's office, police say Luke told his son that Niblo had been shot. According to the court documents, the son said Niblo was "mean and nobody liked them," but he hoped Niblo was shot with a .40 caliber gun so he didn't suffer.

Niblo was found "deceased in his bedroom" where police found "empty .40 caliber shell casings."

When police searched the storage facility on Mesquite Street, they looked for, but did not find, a.40 caliber handgun, ammunition, or spent shell casings. They also looked for, but did not find, blood, fibers, muddy, bloody or wet clothing and muddy, bloody or wet shoes.

During the investigation, police found tracks leading to the creek behind Niblo's home. They believe the suspect "approached and or exited the crime scene via Elm Creek, which would leave mud on clothing."

They also found muddy footprints on the locked bathroom door inside Niblo's house. His wife, Cheryl, was in the bathroom at the time of the murder. She told police she heard several gunshots before escaping. Police believe the suspect kicked the bathroom door twice, trying to get inside.

The day after the murder, police searched an office suite at 104 Pine St. used by the Luke and Ellouise Sweetser. Inside, they found journals with "nude and disturbing pornographic photos and images cut and pasted through the pages of the journals, with cursive writings all around them."

Police found similar journals during a search of Sweetser's house.

Photocopied versions of the journals found at 104 Pine St. were given to police by someone in the Niblo family. They told police Ellouise "intended on using the papers as evidence in a divorce."

The journals, which police believe were written by Luke Sweetser, contain "ideas, goals, beliefs, important events, dates, plans, assessments, introspective self-talk, encouragement, admonishments, disappointments, values, mentalities, achievements, objectives, accomplishments, successes, failures, meanderings, and thoughts."

According to search warrants, police say Ellouise Sweetser returned to the office at 104 Pine St. after her husband's arrest and "removed property." Police say she reportedly hired a moving company to load items and relocate them to an unknown location. They say she also bought a new cell phone using a fake name and address.

No arrests have been made for Niblo's murder. Luke Sweetser is charged with theft of the stolen guns found in the warehouse. Friday, a judge reduced his bond from $400,000 to $75,000. He bailed out around 1 p.m.