Troup Minister Pleads Guilty To Murder

Troup minister, Michael Tabb, pleaded guilty Monday morning to murdering his wife. He was sentenced to 55 years in prison. This brings an end to a year long investigation full of twists and turns.

It began last August when Tabb called 911, claiming he discovered his wife beaten to death inside their home. But just nine days later, Tabb himself was arrested as the only suspect in the murder. The minister was expected to enter a guilty plea on May 13th, but instead of being in court, Tabb was discovered bleeding next to a lake on the U.T. Tyler campus. He claimed he had been attacked, but witnesses say Tabb attempted to commit suicide. Workers drained the lake, finding the knife used in the stabbing.

The May 13th plea bargan of 50 years in prison was taken off the table by Smith County D.A. Jack Skeen. It was replaced by Monday's guilty plea and 55 year sentence.

This not only brings an end to the legal case, but it gave Marla Tabb's family a chance to face her murderer. The State of Texas allows the victim's family in murder cases to speak out in a victim's response. Marla's sister, Melanie Owen, took the witness stand to talk for the entire family. In the prepared statement, Owen fought back tears, but she did not mince words.

"We are haunted by thoughts and images of what you did to Marla." said Owen. "Did Marla suffer? Did she know she was dying?" In the hearing, Owen finally got to ask her brother-in-law the questions which have kept Marla Tabb's family awake at night. "Did little 27 month old Johnathan see his Daddy murder his Mommy? Did that sweet innocent little boy see his father beat his mother's face into a bloody pulp? Did he see his mommy lying dead in a pool of blood?"

Former minister Michael Tabb didn't answer. Even if he had, Owen says she probably wouldn't have believed him, considering the pain Tabb's actions had caused the entire family. "It was not enough for you to take her life. You mutilated her so badly, that we did not have the chance to look into her face one last time."

Her words did not appear to have any affect on Tabb. He sat motionless and silent for the entire reading. "I kept looking at him as I spoke and saying the words to him, and I was amazed that I saw absolutely no emotion from him whatsoever."

Owen says the last time she saw her sister was just nine days before the murder. The family had gotten together to celebrate Marla's mother's birthday. It was the first time both of Marla's young children had ever met their cousins. The lingering questions of what long term effect the murder will have on Marla and Michael's children were not answered today. They are not likely to be answered anytime soon.

As part of the plea agreement, Michael Tabb waived all of his rights to appeal. He will be eligible for parole in 2030 when he's 70.

Stephen Parr, reporting.