- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

TROUP, Texas The killing of a minister's wife earlier this month has shocked the residents of this town of 1,800.
"I refuse to believe that fine man did this," Ossie Barnes said, "but if he didn't, I guess it's even scarier."
Mrs. Barnes was referring to the Rev. Mike Tabb, 41, charged with murder Wednesday in the brutal slaying of his wife Aug. 5 in the parsonage of Troup's First United Methodist Church.
The body of Marla Tabb, 35, was discovered lying in a pool of blood. Her husband said he had been to Tyler, about 15 miles northwest of the town and had returned home to discover his wife dead.
The Tabbs were relatively new in Troup, having moved here from Camp LeJeune, N.C., where Mr. Tabb had served as a chaplain. Mrs. Tabb had little contact with the community because of "difficulties" stemming from a recent childbirth.
Initially, authorities believed an intruder was responsible for the killing, police officials said, but that theory faded as crime scene investigators found that there was no forced entry and that jewelry and other valuables were left untouched, though in plain sight.
The bedroom was a shambles, police said, proof that the victim struggled hard for her life. Blood spatters indicated that the killer would have had a considerable amount of blood all over him.
Mr. Tabb has said he had been waiting for friends at a restaurant in Tyler. When the friends did not appear, he drove to his parents' home and visited with them most of the afternoon on the day of the killing. The parents told police he had been with them.
Sheriff's investigators have been questioning those who knew the Tabbs in North Carolina for potential clues about their relationship but said Friday, "We still don't have a motive."
They also don't have a weapon. Forensics specialists say Mrs. Tabb was beaten to death by either a baseball bat or a chair leg. A kitchen table leg is missing.
What the police do have, sources close to the investigation say, are elements of Mrs. Tabb's blood on Mr. Tabb's shoelaces and between the sole and upper leather of his shoes, though they had been cleaned recently. Similarly, blood was found in Mr. Tabb's vehicle.
"Blood was in the rear of the truck, and there were attempts made to clean it," Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith said.
The community initially responded to the young minister's family the Tabbs have two young sons with pity and concern, but the mood changed as the investigation moved forward, and rumors and facts emerged.
Methodists in particular began to discuss a similar situation that occurred in Dallas about 15 years ago.
"It's pretty natural to remember Peggy Railey," said Bessie Goree, a Troup housewife. "That one just won't go away."
Like Mr. Tabb, the Rev. Walker Railey was an enigmatic young minister. He was the head preacher at Dallas' prestigious United Methodist Church when someone attacked his wife, Peggy, and left her for dead in the couple's garage.
Mr. Railey was charged with attempted murder, and though he won a not-guilty verdict in Dallas, he was stripped of his robes and ostracized by the community because of sexual misconduct and a less-than-religious lifestyle. Today, he lives in the Los Angeles area.
Sheriff Smith said the killing of Mrs. Tabb was "driven by rage."
The autopsy indicated that the victim died of blunt-force trauma and strangulation.
After briefly answering authorities' questions, Mr. Tabb quit talking and hired one of the area's top defense lawyers, F.R. "Buck" Files Jr.
As he left the Smith County courthouse Wednesday with Mr. Files, the suspect was silent. His parents had bailed him out for $50,000.
"I'd love to visit with you about this case," Mr. Files told reporters, "but this is a pending case and I don't comment about pending cases."

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