An Orleans Parish jury deadlocked late Wednesday on a murder charge against 76-year-old Seabon “Tom” Gibson, who had confessed to fatally stabbing his longtime girlfriend, Fannie Campbell, last year during one of the couple’s frequent scraps in Treme.
But the jury, which spent almost seven hours deliberating, convicted Gibson of obstruction of justice for rolling Campbell’s limp body off the roof of his home on St. Philip Street into the bed of his pickup, dropping her body off in a grassy lot and driving home to mop up the blood.
Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich set an Aug. 28 sentencing date for Gibson, who faces up to 40 years in prison on the obstruction count.
It was not immediately clear whether District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office would retry Gibson for murder in the July 20, 2014 killing.
Taking the witness stand on Tuesday, Gibson claimed he was under attack from the 58-year-old Campbell when he wrested a knife from her and began stabbing her indiscriminately, not realizing until later that he’d inflicted mortal wounds.
Gibson told the jury they were both drunk on gin at the time and that he got rid of her body, saying he was out of his head.
Assistant District Attorney Alexis Kyman, trying the case with prosecutor Jason Napoli, seized on Gibson’s raspy admission in her closing argument Wednesday.
“This is a woman he had been in a relationship with for decades, a woman who made sure he took his medicine, and he ended up rolling her off the roof into his truck like she was a load of garbage,” Kyman said. “He said he was worried about (blood) stains. He wasn’t worried about Ms. Campbell rotting in that field covered in blood, covered in flies. No, he was worried about a stain on his floor.
“He told you, ‘I figured if I could just move the body I could get away with it.’ The defendant sat in that chair and admitted to you that he’s guilty of these crimes.”
Gibson’s attorney, Timothy Yazbeck, noted the couple’s history of physical scraps, as well as an April 2014 attack that landed Campbell in jail on an aggravated battery charge.
Campbell, police said, had gashed Gibson’s white-haired skull with either a hammer or a wrench after first grabbing a baseball bat and smashing a window.
Gibson, who has prior convictions from the 1990s that include attempted murder, testified that he bailed her out after that arrest, while authorities lodged a restraining order against her.
He said Campbell had a crack addiction that spawned frequent fights, often over money.
Yazbeck noted that the coroner found cocaine and alcohol in Campbell’s blood.
“Mr. Gibson was in fear of his life. He was terrified and he did defend himself. The only reason we’re all here today is because Mr. Gibson didn’t call 911,” Yazbeck said.
“Whenever she would go off and then come back, he said that’s when they would fight,” he added. “He didn’t call the cops. He just tried to deal with it. Mr. Gibson is 76 years old. Today’s world, the younger generation, probably calls the cops the first time it happens. But he’s different. Things were different for him growing up. ... He just tried to bury the burden.”
The jury returned repeatedly to Zibilich’s courtroom, either with questions or to say they couldn’t agree.
The judge sent them back to the deliberation room before the jury returned around 5 p.m. to say they were split 8-4 between manslaughter and murder, entrenched in their views over Gibson’s intent to kill, or lack thereof.
Gibson sat motionless at the defense table at the end of the three-day trial.
Outside the courtroom, Campbell’s daughter, Danielle Campbell, shook her head in dismay.
“They were confused,” she said of the jury. “My heart says it’s murder. I don’t know what judicial name they give it. All I want is justice.”
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