Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Digital Communications and Files Discussed in Murder Trial of Texas Man

August 30, 2022

On December 12, 2016, Abilene, Texas realtor Tom Niblo was shot and killed inside his home. Erica Garner, of Big Country Homepage, recently reported on digital evidence that was uncovered by investigators during the course of their work which was brought forth in the trial of the murder suspect.

On Friday, August 26, Sgt. Chris Milliron testified on day four of the murder trial about the digital evidence collected and reviewed. Electronics were seized from multiple sources, Garner reports, via search warrants to “the home of Tom and Cheryl Niblo,” “the home of Luke and Ellouise Sweetser,” “offices Luke Sweetser had access to at the Alexander Building in downtown Abilene,” and “the Niblo Family warehouse.”

Among the digital evidence reviewed were emails, photographs, documents, internet history and searches. In the trial, Sgt. Milliron was asked to highlight seven pieces of evidence obtained. The first was an email that was obtained with the title of “Arrest Insurance: Legal Liability Project” which was an email drafted by Luke Sweetser on December 12, 2016, at 10:01 in the morning.

A second email was obtained and Garner quotes part of it “Hi Mike, I don’t believe the annual premiums will be [a problem] … my brother-in-law was murdered by home invaders…his body was sent to Ft. Worth for an autopsy, but I don’t know when the funeral will be. While I feel bad for his wife, my brother-in-law and I weren’t close, so I don’t expect it to upset my business schedule too drastically.” The email was dated the day after the murder occurred, December 13.

Additional emails about a family partnership discussed on December 9 were brought up by the prosecutors in Milliron’s testimony. Browser history found on one of the seized devices shows an internet search on December 11, 2016, for “if member dies.” Files and documents about late payments for Luke Sweetser’s business were found during the investigation, along with files that made reference to “Tom Niblo called autistic son a retard.” The final piece that Sgt. Million testified to was a PowerPoint found that was accessed on December 9, 2016, with a title of “What Makes Serial Killers Tick.”

The FBI also assisted the Abilene police in the investigation and looked at desktop computers and laptops, along with four mobile phones. Among other digital evidence found were browser search history for weapons and survivalist gear, more emails about the Niblo family business, files indicating conflict and issues about the family estate, aw well as file access to cloud storage.

The amount of potential evidence that can be found on electronic devices is staggering. There’s always a bit of a trail to follow and evidence left behind to find. The use of digital forensics in criminal and non-criminal cases can be extremely important to uncover the truth behind what may have occurred. In this case, it looks like emails and other documents are hinting at means and motivation for the murder of Mr. Niblo. The case is still ongoing as Luke Sweetser is scheduled to stand trial for the murder of Tom Niblo.

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