Mark Jacob Stobbe, a one-time top adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, has been charged in connection with the slaying of Stobbe's wife in Manitoba almost eight years ago.

Stobbe, 50, was arrested Tuesday in Saskatoon and charged with second-degree murder following the death of Bev Rowbotham in October 2000, RCMP Sgt. Line Karpish said.

The body of Rowbotham, a 42-year-old mother of two, was found in her car at a gas station near Selkirk. Investigators said they believed she had been beaten to death in the backyard of her home in nearby St. Andrews, then moved to Selkirk. 

Stobbe told investigators Rowbotham had left the family home around 8:30 the previous evening to go grocery shopping, He had fallen asleep with their two sons, then five and three years old, he said, and called police at 1:30 a.m., when she hadn't returned home.

In the years since Rowbotham's death, the RCMP have remained tight-lipped about the progress of the investigation and — until Tuesday — had not publicly identified any suspects or made any arrests.  They had said they did not believe the killing was random.

Stobbe has always maintained that he didn't kill his wife.

Police would not reveal what had changed in the case that allowed them to make the arrest.

"This is going to be for the courts to hear," Karpish said. "There's no doubt about it, it's been a long haul. It's been a long time, but we're very pleased with it.

"Whether it be a month, six months, three years, 10 or 30 years — to us, it's a success."

Rowbotham's sister, Barb Kilpatrick, said she was too emotional Tuesday evening to discuss the arrest, but offered this message from her Alberta home: "It's been a long time coming."

Rowbotham, Stobbe and their sons moved to Manitoba from Regina about five months before Rowbotham's death, after Stobbe accepted a senior job on the Manitoba cabinet's community and economic development committee.

During the investigation, the RCMP got legal advice from outside Manitoba because of Stobbe's connections to the two provincial governments.

Rowbotham worked for several years with the Saskatchewan Public Service Commission before moving to Manitoba.

After his wife's death, Stobbe moved back to Saskatchewan. He was living in Saskatoon with the couple's sons, now 11 and 13, at the time of his arrest.

Stobbe will be held in custody and returned to Manitoba later this week for a court appearance, Karpish said.

With files from the Canadian Press