A man from Lebanon found guilty of first-degree murder by a jury in April of killing his wife then encasing her in concrete will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Really today's sentencing was just a formality for Horst Sabla, the automatic sentence for a first-degree murder conviction in Missouri is life without the possibility of parole.

Back in November of 2008 hunters stumbled across a black plastic tool box in the woods near Lebanon, not far from the RV Sharon and Horst Sabla shared after they lost their home to foreclosure.

Billy Blattell told jurors that he asked his father-in-law to help him move the box, but that it was too heavy. When they smelled a foul odor emitting from the container they Blattell called 911 and told his little boy to stay back.

Authorities had to use bolt cutters to open the box, which was wrapped in chains and locked, to open the container. What they found inside was disturbing, the body of a woman dressed in pajamas, that had been encased in several hundred pounds of concrete.

The "lady in the box" remained unidentified for almost a month and investigators were getting antsy in trying to determine who she was. At the time of the discovery Laclede County Sheriff Richard Wrinkle told me, "Someone loved this lady---she was well taken care of."
Sheriff Richard Wrinkle

Wrinkle appealed to the local and national media for help in identifying "the lady in the box." Their break came about a month later when a friend of Sharon Sabla's called authorities on December 8, 2008, who said he believed he knew who the victim might be. Armed with that information, investigators obtained a DNA sample from Sharon Sabla's daughter, Ginger Coffelt, which came back positive.

On December 10th, Sabla was arrested and read his miranda rights. At first he denied having any knowledge of what happened to his wife of 19 years, telling investigators that he had gone to the store and when he returned his wife and $32,000 were gone. Eventually he admitted to detectives that he shot his wife in the back of the head on August 9, 2008, then "folded" her body at the waist, stuffed her in the black plastic hinged tote toolbox and hid her rotting body in the garage of the family home. He masked the decomposition odor with lime before encasing her in concrete.

The Sabla's were under a tremendous amount of financial stress at the time of the murder, they had recently lost their home and were living in a travel trailer. Sabla, who is a native of Germany, told detectives that his wife was depressed, that they were both HIV positive (Sharon Sabla contracted the disease following a surgical procedure,) and that she said she would shoot herself if he didn't shoot her. He later told detectives that moving the box from his vehicle and pushing it downhill nearly killed him.

In testimony presented at trial on of the investigators said on the stand, "He admits shooting her---I always did what she told me to do,” he (Sabla) says. “... When somebody says I cold-blooded shot my wife, they need to talk to the people that know us.

Sabla, whose trial was moved to Camden County on a change of venue, was also convicted of armed criminal action in his wife's death. He was sentenced to 50 years for that charge, which will run consecutively (after the life without parole sentence.)

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