Circumstantial evidence. Rational inferences. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. With a host of legal terms swirling in their heads, 12 jurors began deliberations Tuesday in a Manitoba murder mystery.
Mark Stobbe has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, Beverly Rowbotham, in October 2000. Rowbotham was struck 16 times in the head with a hatchet or axe in the backyard of their St. Andrews home. Her body was then moved to her vehicle in the garage, and then moved to a parking lot in Selkirk. Stobbe has been charged with second-degree murder.
Queen's Bench Justice Chris Martin gave jurors their final instructions Tuesday morning while recapping more than eight weeks of evidence and explaining the legal test they must apply.
Jurors spent the night in a hotel and were expected to resume their task this morning. They will remain sequestered until they can deliver a unanimous verdict.
"It's not enough that you believe he is probably or likely guilty," Martin said during his two-hour summary. Instead, jurors must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the Crown has 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. The Crown's case against Stobbe is entirely circumstantial, with no direct eyewitness or forensic evidence linking him to the crime. Stobbe has been 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.
Stobbe, 54, 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.
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.