Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Unholy Homicide, Part 2

Tabb Murder Investigation

Methodist Church, Texas
Methodist Church, Texas

According to later reports by The Galveston County Daily News, when police arrived at the Tabb's First United Methodist parsonage they found Marla lying in the couple's bedroom in a pool of blood.  She was beaten beyond recognition.  Overturned lamps and picture frames in the bedroom showed Marla struggled fiercely with her attacker.  Investigators also noticed her attacker went to great lengths to clean up the crime scene, but left behind a large wooden table with two legs broken off, one of which was nowhere to be found.

When questioned about his wife's death, Reverend Tabb said he had left home earlier that day with his 2-year-old son to run some errands and returned home to find the front door open and his wife dead.  The couple's 6-week-old son was inside the home at the time of the murder, but he was not harmed.  Following standard procedure, homicide detectives asked Reverend Tabb to turn over his clothes and shoes and suggested he take the children to a safe place.

As the investigation into Marla's murder progressed, Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith issued a press release which briefly described the crime scene and Marla's cause of death:  "Preliminary results from the southwestern forensic lab in Dallas confirmed that 35-year-old Marla Tabb died from severe blunt force trauma to the head and face area."  While it was not mentioned in the initial release, the trauma to Marla's face was so severe that her jaw was virtually shattered. 

Investigators soon turned to members of Reverend Tabb's congregation and also interviewed friends and family members.  Some said the couple had been having recent domestic problems, but nothing they would consider uncommon for a couple that recently relocated and had another child.  Friends who attended Marla's funeral said Reverend Tabb seemed greatly depressed and his face carried the deep pain of a widower.  Nonetheless, authorities had their suspicions about Reverend Tabb.  Especially after photos surfaced, which showed the minister in a topless bar, just five days after the murder of his wife.  Investigators also wondered why there were no signs of forced entry the night of the murder.  Something wasn't right.  Nothing was stolen and Marla was not sexually assaulted.  So then what was the killer's motive?


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