The day after Beverly Rowbotham died, one of her nieces went for a stroll along the family's sprawling rural property and noticed something unusual — a large patch of wet grass.
"The grass was wet and really green," Shannon Kilpatrick told court Monday.
When asked if the rest of the lawn was wet, she replied with a firm "no."
Inside the house, relatives were consoling Rowbotham's husband, Mark Stobbe — a powerful political adviser in Saskatchewan and Manitoba who police would charge, eight years later, in the second-degree murder of his wife.
The stretch of grass, behind the house near a concrete fire pit, is where the Crown alleges Stobbe killed Rowbotham on Oct. 24, 2000.
Tried to wash away evidence: Crown
The Crown's theory is that Stobbe killed his wife during a heated argument by hitting her with a hatchet 16 times, then dragged her body to a car in the garage, drove more than 15 kilometres to Selkirk, Man., to leave the auto and bicycled back home to report her missing.
The Crown contends that at some point that night or the following day, Stobbe took a hose to the backyard in an attempt to wash away evidence.
Rowbotham's body was found in the early hours of Oct. 25 in the family car in a parking lot in Selkirk. Her head had been bludgeoned.
Kilpatrick was the latest witness in the trial that has featured circumstantial evidence. Relatives have testified that Stobbe and Rowbotham were a happy couple when they met in Regina in 1993.
Stobbe later became a senior adviser to Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, before accepting a job with the Manitoba government in the spring of 2000.
Court has heard that after the move to Manitoba, the couple was under stress due to a new home in bad need of repair and because of long hours Stobbe was putting in at work.
Couple got along fine, says witness
But there hasn't been a Crown witness yet who saw Stobbe and Rowbotham argue.
"They appeared to get along fine," Ken Atchison, Stobbe's university friend and brother-in-law, told court Monday.
Atchison and his wife visited Stobbe and Rowbotham in the summer of 2000. Atchison helped Stobbe take down a large poplar tree that was branching out over the garage.
The two men used a rented chainsaw and a hatchet that was in Stobbe's garage, Atchison said.
"We needed some kindling and I started to make some smaller pieces for a fire."
Afterward, Atchison said, he put the hatchet by a tree stump in the backyard close to where police believe Rowbotham was killed.
The Crown has not introduced any evidence linking that hatchet to Rowbotham's death. The physical evidence to date includes drops of blood, bone fragments and clumps of hair found in the backyard.
Eleven of those items were linked to Rowbotham through DNA testing.
The trial is scheduled to continue until the end of March.