Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stobbe defence makes closing argument

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Mark Stobbe is the victim of circumstantial case riddled with reasonable doubt and should be found not guilty of murdering his wife, his lawyer claims.

Stobbe, 54, has denied any involvement in the October 2000 slaying of Beverly Rowbotham. She was struck 16 times in the head with either a hatchet or an axe in the backyard of her St. Andrews home, then transferred to her car and dumped in a parking lot in Selkirk.

"Mr. Stobbe has no reason to kill his wife. Mr. Stobbe did not kill his wife. Mr. Stobbe could not have killed his wife," defence lawyer Tim Killeen told jurors on Tuesday during closing arguments.

The second-degree murder case against Stobbe began eight weeks ago and has included more than 80 witnesses. There is no direct eyewitness or forensic evidence linking Stobbe to the killing. He was working at the time as a communications adviser with the provincial NDP government.

Crown attorney Wendy Dawson will make her closing argument on Wednesday. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations next week.

Stobbe was home at the time of the deadly attack but denies hearing anything. He claims he fell asleep watching TV after his wife went to Safeway in Selkirk that evening to complete a "big shop" that had been interrupted by their young son that afternoon, only to wake up in the middle of the night to find his wife missing.

The Crown alleges Stobbe made up the shopping story, dumped Rowbotham’s body and then cycled back to his house in an attempt to make her death seem like a robbery gone bad. They have called some evidence suggesting there were marital issues between the two, although Stobbe denies anything overly heated or unusual.

"This isn’t a marriage that was falling apart," Killeen said Tuesday. "He had no reason why he’d want to kill her."

Killeen spent much of his argument focusing on Rowbotham’s purse, in which unknown male DNA was found on the straps. Tests have ruled Stobbe out as the donor.

"At the end of the day I don’t know who did this. I don’t know what happened or whose DNA was on that purse. Nobody does," said Killeen.

The Crown called several witnesses during the trial who reported seeing a vehicle similar to Rowbotham's parked in the same spot where her body was found just before midnight. As well, other motorists and area residents testified about seeing a large man on a bicycle during that time frame, although none was able to specifically identify Stobbe.

Killeen tried to poke holes in that time frame with his final witnesses this week. Lorraine Belanger told jurors she and her husband, Edward, were driving to their Selkirk home around 1 a.m. that day after flying back from a trip to Las Vegas. Belanger told jurors her husband -- who is now deceased -- didn't see any vehicle as they passed by the lot.

Under cross-examination, Belanger admitted her husband was "exhausted" following a long day of travel and only claimed he was "pretty certain" there was nothing there. She also admitted her husband was wrong in his statement to police at the time when he claimed he was driving the car, not his wife.

"If he's mistaken about that aspect, he could be mistaken about other things," said Dawson. Belanger also claimed she never spoke directly to police, but RCMP Const. Warren Wilson was called Monday morning by the Crown as a rebuttal witness to refute that claim. He specifically recalled speaking to both Belanger and her husband that day during a neighbourhood canvass for clues.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 20, 2012 A3


Updated on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 2:37 PM CDT: updates with defence closing argument

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