Accused "honeymoon killer" off the hook

An Alabama man charged with drowning his wife just eleven days after they got married in 2003 is free.

A judge threw out the case against Gabe Watson Thursday, halfway through his trial in Birmingham, acquitting the so-called "honeymoon killer" of murder charges in the death of his newlywed wife, Tina, as they scuba-dived off Australia.

"We all wanted justice, we all wanted the court to hear what little information was presented, and the judge determined that it wasn't enough," says Watson's attorney, Brett Bloomston.

Watson's defense team never had to put on a case. Judge Tommy Nail ruled prosecutors failed to prove Watson intentionally killed his 26-year-old bride so he could cash in on her $33,000 life insurance policy.

Prosecutors had accused Watson of drowning Tina by cutting off her oxygen supply -- even showing a chilling photo of her lifeless body in court.

But the only eyewitness testified he saw Watson trying to save his wife.

"Obviously, we're very disappointed," says Tina's father, Tommy Thomas.

He insisted his former son-in-law had gotten away with murder, saying, "There just seems to be a lot more protection for the accused than there does consideration to the victim, which in this case was Tina."

Tina's friend Amanda Phillips said, chocking up, "I'm most sad for Cindy and Tom who will, every day, for the rest of their lives, live the fact that they've lost their daughter, every day, because you don't get over that."

But Watson's father, David Watson, noted, "This is the fifth judge who concluded Gabe did nothing intentionally to harm his wife. I'm just thrilled for Gabe, and I hope everybody can heal and get back their lives."

Watson -- who served 18 months behind bars in Australia for manslaughter -- faced life in prison if convicted in Alabama.

But he left court a free man -- and has a new wife.

To see Mark Strassmann's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.