BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Feb. 23, 2012 -- The judge presiding over the so-called honeymoon killer trial dismissed murder charges against Gabe Watson after the prosecution completed its case today.
The charges were dismissed before the defense presented a single witness.
Watson, 34, was charged with killing Tina Watson in 2003 during an Australian honeymoon 11 days after they were married.
Prosecutors had claimed that Watson had shut off his wife's air supply while scuba diving off of 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.
The prosecution rested its case today after two weeks of testimony . Defense lawyer Brett Bloomstom immediately made a motion to dismiss the case for lack of evidence, and Judge Tommy Nail agreed that the prosecution had failed to prove that Watson had killed his wife.
Watson's dad, Dave Watson, hugged his son after the judge dismissed the case and was conciliatory to Tina's family.
"I am sorry for the Thomas' family loss. I hope Gabe and our family can now move forward with our lives," Dave Watson said.
Charges in Honeymoon Murder Trial Tossed By Judge
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."
Tina Watson's father, Tommy Thomas, had testified emotionally earlier in the day said he was "disappointed" that the case never reached a jury. Thomas said he felt that more consideration was given for accused than his daughter.
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.
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.
The judge has been growing publicly skeptical of the prosecution's case in recent days. Earlier today he refused to admit as evidence a statement by Tina Watson's father who claimed that his daughter came to him shortly before the wedding to say that Gabe Watson asked her to increase her insurance to $130,000. The father told her "not to worry about it" now, but tell Gabe Watson it had been increased.
The judge ruled the statement inadmissible and hearsay.
And on Tuesday Nail sent the jury out of the courtroom and scoffed at prosecutor Don Valeska's suggestions that Gabe Watson took back his wife's engagement ring before she was buried as evidence of his greed.
"You mean to tell me that [Gabe Watson] bought the engagement ring, married her, he and his family paid for a wedding, he planned and paid for a honeymoon halfway around the world, all so he could kill her to get an engagement ring he bought in the first place?" the judge asked.
The prosecution also suffered a blow earlier today when Bloomstom asked Tommy Thomas, Tina Watson's father, "Do you know Tina's estate valued was $3,000 at time of her death?"
"No," replied Thomas.
"Are you aware Tina had $24,000 in debt?" Bloomstom asked.
"No," the father replied.
Bloomstom also asked Thomas if he collected his daughter's life insurance, and Thomas admitted that he did.
Watson has since remarried and his wife sat stoically through the trial.