Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stobbe pens jailhouse account

Inmates respected accused killer, sought his advice

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He describes himself as a fish out of water, a "50-year-old fat white guy" thrown in jail after a high-profile slaying for which he was later cleared.

Now, former government adviser Mark Stobbe is speaking out about his stint behind bars in a book to be released this year. The Free Press obtained an advance copy of Lessons From Remand.

Stobbe, 54, writes little about the circumstances surrounding the October 2000 killing of his wife, Beverly Rowbotham, in the backyard of their home in St. Andrews just north of Winnipeg.

She was struck 16 times in the head with a hatchet, her body moved to a parking lot in Selkirk and left inside her vehicle. At the time, Stobbe was working as a communications adviser with the provincial NDP government.

Stobbe's book includes plenty of first-person quips about encounters with bikers, gang members and career criminals who mostly treated him as a "figure of respect" and looked to him for guidance.

"My position within the Winnipeg Remand Centre was an odd one. I stood out from almost all the other inmates. I had much more education than most and I was clearly unscarred by the long-term lash of poverty, alcoholism or drug abuse," Stobbe writes.

Stobbe -- who lives in Saskatoon with his two teenage sons -- wasn't arrested until May 2008.

He was released on bail six weeks later and went on trial last year. Jurors found him not guilty in a circumstantial case in which there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime.

"There's an old joke in classical detective fiction that the butler did it. In today's law enforcement and media circles, the modern version is that the husband did it," Stobbe writes of his arrest.

Stobbe thanks the jurors for their work, praises Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin for how he handled the case and dedicates the book to his team of lawyers, two of whom have since been appointed provincial court judges.

Stobbe maintains he wrote the book to shed light on the plight most prisoners face upon arrest. He says he takes issues and incidents he observed and "examines them from the perspective of sociological, psychological, theological theory."

The 134-page narrative includes chapters titled: I didn't do nothing wrong, The problem with today's youth and Jail as community.

He attacks issues such as overcrowding and lack of programming and says the federal government was wrong to recently eliminate the controversial two-for-one credit judges routinely awarded for pre-trial custody.

The book is sprinkled with criminal statistics and includes a forward from Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society.

"(Stobbe) presents a fascinating account of his pre-trial detention experience, and he provides insights that should prompt serious thought about much-needed reform to this part of the Canadian criminal justice system," Latimer writes.

"Many may be surprised to learn more than half of the men, women and young persons behind bars in this country have neither been convicted nor sentenced for their alleged crimes. Despite being presumed innocent, they are denied their most fundamental right to liberty, being warehoused in remand centres waiting for an overburdened justice system to bring them to trial and reach a verdict."

In Stobbe's book, he talks of the routine boredom of incarceration, where the highlight of the day involves peering out the windows of the downtown remand centre, hoping a young woman on the street will flash her breasts.

"The display of naked breasts would always draw a crowd," he says.

Card games, bad food and crowding around old television sets to watch the news were also daily staples.

Stobbe writes he often asked other inmates what they planned to do upon their release. One fellow prisoner said he was going directly to Portage Place to buy drugs from a regular. Another was heading straight to the liquor store for tequila. Many others spoke in vulgar terms about sexual conquests they had planned.

Stobbe writes he got a "standing ovation" from about 70 inmates on the day he got released on bail. He said correctional officers were also friendly, even warning him to be wary of potential snitches within the facility.

Stobbe says his only real issue came when a bulky biker mistook him for a sex offender and threatened to teach him a lesson in the shower.

"I decided that silence was golden," Stobbe writes.

Stobbe was accused of killing Rowbotham in a violent rage because of ongoing stress in their marriage, then riding a bicycle 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.

Stobbe testified in his own defence and denied any wrongdoing. He said he was home at the time Rowbotham was killed but couldn't explain why he didn't hear the attack or who would have killed her.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 5, 2013 A3

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