A Chesterfield County judge denied bail Tuesday for a former Midlothian physician charged with murder in the disappearance and presumed death of his girlfriend, after the prosecution outlined much of its evidence, which included a blood sample found in the trunk of the victim’s car.
After Zulma L. Pabon’s white Nissan Altima was found abandoned in a mobile home park in Chester 10 days after her June 6, 2014, disappearance, investigators examining the vehicle found blood on a piece of paper in the trunk, Chesterfield Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Larry Hogan told the court.
A DNA profile developed from the blood matched the familial DNA of Pabon’s parents and sister, which indicates the blood in the trunk could be Pabon’s, the prosecutor added.
In addition, a cadaver dog that police used in examining the vehicle “alerted” to the presence of decomposing human flesh, Hogan said. Cadaver dogs are trained to locate and follow the scent of decomposing remains.
Highlights of the largely circumstantial evidence outlined by the prosecution for the judge are:
- Pabon’s relationship with Dr. John E. Gibbs II was deteriorating, and she told him she was going to leave him. Pabon had signed a lease for another apartment and was set to move on July 11, 2014.
- Pabon, 26, had developed a “friendship” with a man whom she met while working out at a Gold’s Gym. The unidentified man had invited Pabon, and she accepted, to attend a Memorial Day gathering with the man’s family in Powhatan County.
- Pabon, a licensed practical nurse, had arranged to meet that man after work on Friday, June 6, 2014, the last day she was seen alive. Her co-workers reported her missing the following Monday, after she failed to show up for work that morning at Commonwealth Fertility and Women’s Health at Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, the same complex where Gibbs formerly worked.
- Pabon’s co-workers drove to the condominium she shared with Gibbs in the 5300 block of Terrace Arbor Circle in search of her and encountered Gibbs, who told them that he last had seen Pabon on Saturday morning, June 7.
- On the day Pabon’s car was found abandoned in Greenleigh Mobile Home Park off Jefferson Davis Highway, about 16 miles from the couple’s condo, Gibbs left work and returned home before driving to a construction site on Woods Edge Road off Interstate 95. Investigators had placed Gibbs under surveillance and were following him. They observed Gibbs get out of his car with a bag and throw it into a dumpster. Detectives recovered the bag and found a bedsheet, a comforter and a Comcast remote control inside.
- A cadaver dog that police used in examining the comforter “alerted” to the scent of decomposing human flesh on the quilt.
- At some point after dumping the items, Gibbs drove to the mobile home park where Pabon’s car was found. He was observed slowly driving by the area but didn’t stop.
- Less than two weeks after Pabon disappeared, investigators who placed a tracking device on Gibbs’ car learned he made an unscheduled trip to Flagstaff, Ariz., and the Grand Canyon.
- After Gibbs returned from the trip June 29, he made two trips to Lowe’s home improvement stores, where he purchased 23 bottles of drain cleaner and a 64-gallon trash can.
- In an examination of Gibbs’ personal computer with a search warrant, investigators found that internet searches had been conducted using the words “ether knock out,” “ether clothing” and “how much ether to make someone pass out.”
- After Gibbs moved from the condo he shared with Pabon to another condo, Gibbs rented a dumpster and threw out many of Pabon’s belongings, including her jewelry, makeup, clothing and photos of her and Gibbs together.
- Surveillance images police obtained show Gibbs walking back to the couple’s condo at 6:39 a.m. June 7, about 13 minutes after a vehicle believed to be Pabon’s can be seen in another surveillance photo leaving their condo. The car’s occupants are not visible. Gibbs changed his clothes and shoes after returning.
Hogan told the court that after Pabon disappeared, her cellphone went dead, activity on her bank account ceased and her car loan went into default for nonpayment.
Before Hogan’s outline of the evidence, defense attorney Craig Cooley asked the judge to set a “reasonable” pretrial bond for Gibbs on the murder count, in addition to a separate “appeal bond” while Gibbs appeals his conviction for felony child neglect involving the couple’s son.
Circuit Judge David E. Johnson denied both.
Gibbs, 39, was sentenced March 28 to serve six months in jail for an incident in which the couple’s 5-year-old son was found wandering alone in a busy commercial area after being left unattended at home on Feb. 22, 2016. Johnson found him guilty of the charge in November.
Gibbs’ trial in the murder case has been set for one week, beginning July 31.