GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) – A Williamson County jury sentenced Rex Nisbett to 42 years in prison a day after finding him guilty in the 1991 murder of his wife Vicki Nisbett.
Nisbett will serve a quarter of the sentence before he is eligible for parole, and will be credited for time served. He has been in jail since February 2013.
The jury delivered their guilty verdict late Wednesday after two days of deliberation.
Prosecutors worked to convince jurors that even though Vicki’s body was never recovered, there was enough circumstantial evidence to convict Nisbitt of murder.
“I wish I still knew where my daughter was,” Vicki’s mother, Carol Johnson, said. “But at least this is getting her some justice. I may never know where she’s at, but this is a day I’ve waited for for almost 23 years, and it’s great.”
Court will resume Thursday morning at 10 a.m. as the sentencing phase begins. While Vicki’s family would like for Rex to get life in prison, they know it’s up to the jury. “Whatever they decide is fine as long as he goes away,” said Carol.
If the defense came to the prosecution with some viable information on Vicki’s body, they would consider it in the sentence.
“We’d still like to explore that possibility, if they have news for us,” said Assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner. “One of our main goals is still closure for the family and that includes finding her body, even to this day.”
Earlier Wednesday, the jury asked the judge if they could find Rex Nisbett guilty of a lesser charge than murder. The judge instructed the jury that their only options were to find him guilty or not guilty of murder. At that point, they indicated they were split at 7 to 5.
On June 3, Rex Nisbett went on trial, and attorneys presented their closing arguments in the case Tuesday morning.
In-Depth: Trial last week
The evidence and the known facts of the case have not changed over the two decades since the missing person case was opened, but the district attorney has changed.
“Rex Nisbett believes for 22 years he has gotten away with Vicki’s murder, but you are here today to hold him accountable,” said Williamson County District Attorney and prosecutor Jana Duty to the jury of 12 during opening statements.
Over the past 23 years, previous district attorneys did not prosecute Nisbett because Vicki’s body was never found. Without a body, the case was considered too thin and circumstantial to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Duty disagreed and reopened the case file last year. Now, Rex Nisbett is facing trial using the same exact evidence that has been sitting cold since 1991.
It’s evidence that includes blood stains found beneath the carpet inside the Anderson Mill apartment where Rex and Vicki lived, along with the testimony of witnesses, including Vicki’s mother, about the couple’s relationship.
“He told me that she was probably dead and that he was doing everything he could to find her,” testified Johnson about a phone conversation she had with Rex five months after Vicki disappeared.
Johnson broke down in tears on the stand when shown a picture of her daughter.
According to witnesses on the first day of testimony, Rex and Vicki were dealing with marital problems in 1991 — which forced Vicki to move out of the couple’s home while they sought a divorce. However, Vicki invited Rex to move into her new apartment during the holiday season because she was financially struggling to provide Christmas for her three sons, all younger than 7 years old and who were missing their dad.
Friends testified that Vicki continued to see other men and that it led to more problems for the couple.
During opening statements, Duty told the jury a close friend of Vicki’s would testify about hearing a “commotion” during a phone call on the night of the disappearance. Duty also said a neighbor will testify Rex asked for him to watch the three boys while he borrowed the neighbor’s truck — only to return the truck with damage to the trunk area.
Duty told the jury that the case is not complicated, but the time elapsed and faded memories of witnesses would be the most complicating aspect of the trial.
Defense attorney Keith Lauerman emphasized that point in his opening statement.
“They are going to have to prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt to prove this story.”