Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't let Stobbe off, Crown pleads

'A dishonest, lying witness' on wife's killing

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A Winnipeg jury was urged Wednesday not to let Mark Stobbe get away with the "near-perfect murder" of his wife, Beverly Rowbotham.

Crown attorney Wendy Dawson launched a final assault on Stobbe's character and alibi Wednesday, claiming there is an overwhelming circumstantial case against him. She painted the former high-ranking government adviser as a cunning manipulator whose repeated denials of guilt should be rejected.

"He demonstrated all the hallmarks of a dishonest, lying witness. He cannot keep his story straight," Dawson said, summarizing eight weeks of evidence called by the Crown. She told jurors they should have no trouble finding Stobbe guilty of second-degree murder in the October 2000 slaying and pointed to 39 areas of circumstantial evidence.

"There is a trail of evidence that you just have to follow and draw inferences from," Dawson said.

Stobbe, 54, spent more than a week on the witness stand denying any involvement in his wife's slaying. She was struck 16 times in the head with a hatchet or axe in the backyard of her St. Andrews home, then transferred to her car and left in a parking lot in Selkirk, evidence at trial showed.

Stobbe testified he was home at the time, but denied hearing anything. He said he fell asleep watching TV after his wife went to Safeway in Selkirk to complete a shopping trip. He said he woke in the middle of the night to find his wife missing.

Dawson attacked Stobbe's explanation Wednesday, accusing him of staging the attack to make it look like a robbery gone bad, and creating the shopping story despite the fact the kitchen was fully stocked and Rowbotham had a big job interview early next morning.

"Certainly he should have been able to hear a cry for help from his wife or a commotion in the garage," Dawson said. "Why did Mr. Stobbe not hear anything? Because Beverly Rowbotham wasn't attacked by a stranger. She was attacked by Mr. Stobbe."

Dawson said Wednesday 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. She scoffed at his claim he cut himself shaving.

"The amount of blood found on the towel was more than what you'd expect from a shaving cut," Dawson said. She noted a small blood stain was 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.

Defence lawyer Tim Killeen has argued the blood could have come from a swatted mosquito that had previously bitten Stobbe and Rowbotham, a claim the Crown attorney suggested Wednesday did not make any sense.

Dawson said there were numerous stresses in the Stobbe-Rowbotham marriage triggering the deadly attack.

"This was a crime of rage. In October 2000, all was not rosy. She was not the happy, cheerful person Mr. Stobbe claimed her to be."

On Tuesday, Killeen told the jury a conviction would be a miscarriage of justice.

Killeen admitted there is plenty that is "suspicious" about his client's story, but told jurors it's not nearly enough to convict him.

"The Crown has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Stobbe has to prove nothing," Killeen had said in his closing argument.

"Mr. Stobbe has no reason to kill his wife. Mr. Stobbe did not kill his wife. Mr. Stobbe could not have killed his wife."


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2012 B1

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