WINNIPEG — Minutes after being found not guilty in the slaying of his wife, former political adviser Mark Stobbe told reporters he would like to know who the identity of her killer, but it's not his task to find out.
"I've heard the judge say on many occasions that that isn't my job. It's not something I can speculate on," Stobbe, 54, said outside court.
"Of course, I want to know."
Stobbe added he now wants to focus on raising his two teenaged sons.
"I'm very proud of my sons. I know their mother would be too.
Stobbe says he never doubted he would be cleared of his wife’s killing. He was found not guilty Thursday afternoon of the October 2000 killing of Beverly Rowbotham.
Jurors returned their verdict on the third day of deliberations following a two-month trial in which more than 80 witnesses testified.
Many jurors appeared to be emotionally distraught as the outcome was read aloud in court.
Stobbe faced a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted. Moments after learning he was a free man, Stobbe addressed a throng of media outside the downtown Winnipeg courthouse.
"It was the outcome I was expecting, once the jury heard the full story and the facts," he said. Stobbe acknowledged there are likely some people who still feel he got away with murder.
"I wouldn’t wish this on anybody," he said. "There will always be some who are unconvinced. The decision speaks for itself."
Stobbe said he plans to return to his home in Saskatoon and continue living with his two boys, who were in court for parts of the trial. He thanked his lawyer, the judge, the jury and his family and friends in his home province for continuing to support him.
Rowbotham was struck 16 times in the head with a hatchet or axe in the backyard of the family's St. Andrews home. Her body was then moved to her vehicle in the garage, and then to a parking lot in Selkirk.
The Crown's case against Stobbe was entirely circumstantial, with no direct eyewitness or forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Stobbe was accused of killing Rowbotham in a violent rage because of ongoing stress in their marriage, then riding a bicycle back to his home after leaving his wife's body in Selkirk to try to make her death look like a robbery.
The Crown called Rowbotham's killing a "near-perfect murder" but told jurors there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence against Stobbe. They claim a bloody towel and two bloody Kleenexes found in the Stobbe home and garage contained Stobbe's DNA and prove he cleaned himself up after an injury. Stobbe claims he cut himself shaving.
There was also a small blood stain found on a fridge in the family garage, where Rowbotham's body was moved into a vehicle. The stain contained mixed DNA from Stobbe and Rowbotham.
Stobbe testified in his own defence and denied any wrongdoing. He admits being home at the time Rowbotham was killed and can't explain why he didn't hear the crime occur or who would have attacked her. He said there were no serious problems in his relationship with Rowbotham.
His lawyer, Tim Killeen, attacked the Crown's case and told jurors it would be a miscarriage of justice to find Stobbe guilty. He noted there was unknown male DNA found on Rowbotham's purse, which was located next to her body. Stobbe has been ruled out as the donor.
"It's not enough that you believe he is probably or likely guilty," Justice Chris Martin told jurors earlier this week during his charge. Instead, jurors had to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the Crown had proven its case.
"If you believe Mr. Stobbe's testimony that he didn't commit the murder, you must find him not guilty," said Martin.
Killeen also spoke outside court Thursday, saying it’s possible Rowbotham’s killing could be re-opened one day.
"It’s possible at some point someone will be connected to that DNA (on the purse)," said Killeen.
He questioned the decision to even charge and prosecute Stobbe, noting it took nearly a decade to do so and happened only after justice officials in other provinces had decided against proceeding.
Eventually, British Columbia prosecutors agreed to take on the case.
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