Stobbe's lawyer highlights unknown DNA in defence

A lawyer for Mark Stobbe, a former political advisor accused of killing his wife over a decade ago, told a Winnipeg jury that prosecutors didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mark Stobbe walks into the Winnipeg courthouse on Tuesday morning. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A lawyer for Mark Stobbe, a former political advisor accused of killing his wife over a decade ago, told a Winnipeg jury that prosecutors did not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defence lawyer Tim Killeen told jurors on Tuesday that unknown male DNA was found on the purse of Beverly Rowbotham, whose body was found in the family car in Selkirk, Man., in October 2000.

Stobbe, a former adviser in the Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in connection with Rowbotham's death.

In his final arguments to the court, Killeen reminded the jury that the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stobbe killed Rowbotham.

"There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt he committed this offence," Killeen told the jury.

"The verdict you should return is not guilty."

100 hours of testimony

The Crown is expected to make its final submission to the court on Wednesday.

Jurors had heard from about 80 witnesses and more than 100 hours of testimony since Stobbe's trial began in mid-January.

Stobbe testified in his own defence, repeatedly rejecting the Crown's allegations that he attacked Rowbotham with a hatchet, drove her body to the Selkirk area, then bicycled home to report her missing.

Stobbe also denied the Crown's claim that he tried to wash away blood stains from the yard of their rural property in St. Andrews, Man.

On Tuesday, Killeen suggested to the jury that rain could have washed Rowbotham's blood from the yard.

As well, he told the court that Stobbe could not have bicycled about 14 kilometres from the location where Rowbotham's body was found back to their house.

Even if Stobbe was able to make that trip as a younger man, his physical health has changed as he got older.

The only time anyone saw Stobbe on a bicycle was with one of his sons, going to the mailbox, Killeen told the court.

Stobbe maintained throughout the trial that he fell asleep while his wife went on a late-night grocery shopping trip, then woke up to find she had not returned.

Moved from Regina to Winnipeg

Stobbe had worked as a senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow before he moved to Manitoba in the spring of 2000 for a new job with the recently elected NDP government of Gary Doer.

When Stobbe began testifying on March 8, he told the court that his family's move from Regina to Winnipeg was initially positive, but their arrival became soured by home repairs and mosquitoes in the area that summer.

Stobbe characterized his marriage to Rowbotham as generally normal and happy — a point that Killeen reiterated in his closing comments to the jury on Tuesday.

The Crown's case against Stobbe has been circumstantial since there were no witnesses and the murder weapon was never found.

The Crown has DNA evidence that shows blood, hair and small bone fragments from Rowbotham were found in the couple's backyard.

Stobbe has testified he didn't hear anything from the backyard or garage the night his wife was killed.

With files from The Canadian Press