March 16, 2017 01:37 PM


A former Virginia doctor allegedly killed his nurse girlfriend, who vanished more than two years ago and hasn’t been seen since, PEOPLE confirms.

But the attorney for 39-year-old John E. Gibbs tells PEOPLE the state has no evidence to support the charges, and that her client is merely the victim of overzealous investigators.

Zulma Pabon, 26, was last seen alive on June 6, 2014, according to a statement from the Chesterfield County Police Department. The licensed practical nurse was leaving her job at Commonwealth Fertility and Women’s Health at Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center.

Detectives have been investigating Pabon’s disappearance ever since. This week, they revealed the missing person case had switched gears, becoming a “no-body homicide” investigation, the statement says.

The statement says Gibbs, of Ashland, was indicted Monday by a grand jury, who were presented with new evidence developed by police that has not been made public.

The former pain management doctor was arrested the following day with the assistance of the Massanutten Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force.

“Investigators have concluded that Pabon is deceased, though her remains have not been recovered,” the statement adds. “This case is now classified as a death investigation, specifically a no-body homicide.”

Police are not discussing the new evidence presented to grand jurors earlier this week. Court documents accessed by PEOPLE do not provide any additional insight into the investigation.

Gibbs remains in police custody without bail and he has yet to enter a plea to the murder charge.

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Debra Corcoran, Gibbs’ attorney, tells PEOPLE the state’s case is weak.

“They don’t have a body, they don’t have a motive, they don’t have a weapon, and they have no evidence to indicate a murder has occurred,” Corcoran says. “Ms. Pabon disappeared in 2014. Here we are in 2017, and Mr. Gibbs has not fled the area, he is a law-abiding citizen … That they are going to try him for a murder without a body and no supporting evidence is highly questionable.”

Police say surveillance cameras captured footage of Pabon’s car leaving the couple’s condominium the morning after she was last seen alive. About 15 minutes later, those same cameras recorded Gibbs walking toward the couple’s home. Pabon’s car was later found parked along an interstate highway and was towed to a storage lot.

Corcoran tells PEOPLE her client likes to take morning walks, and believes detectives have focused exclusively on him as a potential suspect in Pabon’s disappearance.

Zulma Pabon
Chesterfield County Jail


“The local authorities had a knee-jerk reaction with Ms. Pabon’s disappearance and automatically assumed Mr. Gibbs must be responsible for her absence,” says Corcoran, who further addressed the state’s contentions her client has not cooperated with the investigation into what happened to his ex.

“The Commonwealth has sent out a lot of press releases to that effect but what he has done is exercise his Fifth Amendment right,” his lawyer says. “He has a right to remain silent, no matter what. And that would be the most prudent course of action because no matter what he would say or do, he would be vilified by the Commonwealth.”

Corcoran says she advised Gibbs to plead the Fifth and believes the state is attempting to poison the potential jury pool with its “highly inflammatory suggestions.”

Corcoran tells PEOPLE that Gibbs was convicted of felony child neglect back in November. He had been charged months earlier with two counts of felony child neglect after Joseph, the 5-year-old son he’d had with Pabon, walked into a Costco store alone. One of the charges was dismissed.

Corcoran acknowledges that her client did leave the child home alone for about 30 minutes while he attended a parent-teacher conference at Joseph’s school. His sentencing is scheduled for March 28, and Gibbs was ordered not to have any contact with his son, who is now living with Gibbs’ sister.

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Gibbs lost his position at Sheltering Arms Hospital in Midlothian, Virginia, after officers entered the hospital to handcuff him in late February 2016, she says.

This is only the second time county police have filed murder charges against a suspect accused of killing someone whose body remains missing.

Pabon’s relatives could not be reached for comment on Tuesday’s arrest.

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