Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Killer still unknown: defence

Stobbe evidence all circumstantial

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A shadowy figure on a bicycle. Mysterious male DNA on a purse. Conflicting stories and evidence. Fading memories. And the passage of more than a decade.

The Mark Stobbe murder trial has been filled with eight weeks of circumstantial evidence and intrigue that the Crown believes point to him as the cold-blooded killer of his wife, Beverly Rowbotham.

But Stobbe's lawyer, Tim Killeen, is urging jurors to find his client not guilty, suggesting any other verdict would be a miscarriage of justice.

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

Stobbe, 54, has denied any involvement in the October 2000 slaying of 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 left in a parking lot in Selkirk. The second-degree murder case against Stobbe included more than 80 witnesses, although there is no direct eyewitness nor 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 today. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations next week.

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

"The Crown has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Mr. Stobbe has to prove nothing," he said.

Stobbe said he was home at the time of the attack but denies hearing anything. He said he fell asleep watching TV after his wife went to Safeway in Selkirk 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 moved Rowbotham's body and cycled back to his house in an attempt to make her death seem like a robbery gone bad. They have presented 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. "He had no reason why he'd want to kill her."

Killeen spent much of his argument focusing on Rowbotham's purse. Unknown male DNA was found on its 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," Killeen said. He offered a number of theories, including the possibility Rowbotham was attacked by an intruder she found in the yard or by a drugged-up stranger whose path she crossed.

"The world, unfortunately, is full of bizarre people," Killeen said. "We really have no idea what occurred here."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2012 B2

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