Judge to decide on motion to toss evidence in Niblo murder case


ABILENE, Texas - Judge Thomas Wheeler will decide next week whether to grant a motion to suppress evidence in the murder case of Abilene realtor Tom Niblo .

Defense attorney Lynn Ingalsbe filed the motion to suppress evidence seized by the Abilene Police Department from Luke Sweetser, Niblo's brother-in-law and the only named suspect in the case.

Niblo was found dead in his south side home after a shooting on Dec. 12 of last year.

Prosecution and defense lawyers appeared in court Friday to address Wheeler.

Abilene police executed two search warrants in the case days after the murder. The items seized from a safe in a storage facility were guns belonging to a local attorney. The found guns led to Sweetser's arrest.

Ingalsbe said he filed the motion to suppress evidence because there was no probable cause for the issuance of the search warrants.

"Our position is that the search warrant affidavit did not state probable cause," Ingalsbe said.

According to Ingalsbe, the search warrant failed to contain mandatory language by authorizing the search but not the seizure of the items.

Ingalsbe said one of two things can happen after Wheeler makes his decision, the evidence will be tossed out or Sweetser will be convicted.

"Wait on [Wheeler's] decision, if his decision is favorable that's the end of the case."

If Sweetser is convicted, Ingalsbe said it won't end there.

"If Mr. Sweetser is convicted, the case will be appealed. I assure you that this is not the end of it unless If he rules against us because it will be appealed."

In the courthouse, before the hearing, Sweetser said he had "no comment" when asked about the case.

During July, police said insufficient evidence existed to make an arrest .

Sweetser was originally arrested on an unrelated charge .

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Nearly a year since Thomas Niblo was murdered in his Abilene home, the only named suspect in the case, Luke Sweetser, returned to a Taylor County courtroom Monday to once again try and retrieve items seized by the Abilene Police Department during the investigation.

No arrests have been made in the murder, but Sweetser was charged with theft of a firearm after police said they found several stolen guns in his possession.

"They searched his storage building, his office, his vehicle, they took computers and phones and clothing and all kinds of things -- which they still have -- and refuse to return any of it, even though no incriminating evidence has come forth sufficient to formally accuse my client," said Lynn Ingalsbe, Sweetser's attorney. "So I guess they're just going to keep this stuff forever."

Two warrants were executed in the days following Niblo's murder on December 12.

"The search warrants in question don't authorize the seizure of anything," said Ingalsbe.

Among the items seized during the murder investigation were guns belonging to a local attorney. These guns, found in a storage facility, led to Sweetser's charge.

Ingalsbe says those items were unlawfully seized, and added that a motion to suppress the evidence is set to take place Wednesday.

"The search warrant [that] authorizes the search of the safe is void for the same reason that the others are," said Ingalsbe.

No decision was made today due to a jurisdiction issue. The judge gave Ingalsbe 20 days to refile the plea. After December 11, the hearing will be reset.

APD had no comment regarding Monday's hearing. Their only response was that the Niblo murder remains an active investigation.

At no point in the investigation has Sweetser been charged with murder.