For Gabe Watson, the so-called Honeymoon Killer whose murder charges were abruptly dismissed Thursday by an Alabama judge, a return to normal life will begin immediately, his father said today.
"I don't know," he said when asked exactly how his son will repair his life. "Hopefully he'll be able to move forward."
Gabe Watson, 34, was charged with killing Tina Watson in 2003 during an Australian honeymoon 11 days after they were married.
His father, Dave, was in the courtroom Thursday when Judge Tommy Nail dismissed murder charges against Watson after just two weeks of testimony from the prosecution and before the defense presented a single witness.
"First thing Gabe said to me, it was just a long, tearful hug," Watson said. "I don't remember what words were exchanged, just a long hug and a sigh of relief."
Prosecutors had claimed that Watson had shut off his wife's air supply while scuba diving off Australia's Great Barrier Reef, then turned the air back on after she had died. The motive, prosecutors claimed, was to collect on her life insurance and her possessions.
Defense lawyer Brett Bloomstom immediately made a motion to dismiss the case for lack of evidence after the prosecution ended its case Thursday, and Judge Tommy Nail agreed that prosecutors had failed to prove that Watson had killed his wife.
While describing his family as "relieved" at the trial's outcome, Dave Watson said he believes his son will never be able to convince Tina's family that he did not cause her death.
"I doubt it. I think their minds are made up," he said. "I don't know what he can say to them to change their minds."
Tina Watson's father, Tommy Thomas, who had testified emotionally earlier in the day, said he was "disappointed" that the case never reached a jury and said he felt that more consideration was given for the accused, Watson, than for his daughter.
Thomas and his wife, Cindy, later posted a statement on the "Justice for Tina Thomas" page on Facebook that read, in part, "A JURY of his peers with ALL the evidence: that is all we ever asked for Tina that is all we wanted..."
Dave Watson told "GMA" his family had kept Tina in mind through the trial and remained saddened by her death.
"Seeing with everything that the Thomases described her as, a beautiful, wonderful lady with a tremendous smile and a personality, we're all going to miss her," he said. "We always will, that will never change, regardless."
Prosecutor Don Valeska said there is no appeal of the judge's ruling.
"Judge Nail did what he thinks is right. I strongly disagree with him. I'm extremely stunned and at a loss for words," Valeska said.
Watson's lawyer Brett Bloomstom said his client "hopes this will be the end of this case and that it will be put behind them." Gabe Watson claims his wife panicked, and when he went to help her, she accidentally knocked his mask and regulator off. By the time he recovered, she had drifted out of his reach.
Watson had pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter in Australia for failing to save her and spent 18 months in prison. Alabama tried him for murder, claiming the alleged crime was plotted in the U.S.
If convicted, Watson could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Watson has since remarried and his wife sat stoically through the trial.
"His wife, my wife, they're both educators, they have to go to work Monday," Dave Watson said of how the family will move on.
"The proof of Gabe's character and nature will be how he lives the rest of his life," he said. "Hopefully people will look back and see that he was a good person."