WINNIPEG – Bone fragments, blood drops and small clumps of hair were found in the backyard and garage of Mark Stobbe’s home, an RCMP forensics expert testified Tuesday.
Police searched Stobbe’s house in the days after his wife was found dead and discovered dozens of items, including small bone chips in the grass behind the sprawling rural home in St. Andrew’s, Man.
“There were very small articles that the (search) team had located while searching the area on their hands and knees,” Insp. Bruce Prange told the court.
Stobbe, who once worked as a senior adviser to former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, is accused of second-degree murder in the October 2000 death of his wife Beverly Rowbotham. The family had moved to Manitoba earlier in the year because Stobbe had accepted a job with the NDP government.
Rowbotham was found dead in her car near Selkirk, Man., about 20 kilometres away from her home. The Crown alleges Stobbe killed her during a heated argument in the family’s backyard by hitting her in the head 16 times with a hatchet. The Crown’s theory is that Stobbe then dragged his wife to one of the family’s two cars in the garage, hit her at least one more time, then drove away.
Prange led jurors Tuesday through the Stobbe home using photographs and a map with symbols indicating where items were found. Eleven of the items were later determined to be from Rowbotham through DNA testing, Prange said.
Most of the bone fragments were found in the backyard, not far from a fire pit, Prange said. There were blood stains in the grass and on the frame of a door leading to the garage, he added.
“It was still a bright red…older blood would appear darker over time.”
When officers moved a car in the garage to examine the floor, they found more.
“We observed blood-stained leaves…and more blood stains right on the concrete floor.”
Under cross-examination, Prange acknowledged that the age of some blood stains could not be determined, because they were very small.
Defence lawyer Tim Killeen also appeared to suggest that the blood stains and bone chips in the backyard may have been connected to an old tree stump that the family used as a chopping block.
“It appears there is a stump or chopping block within that grid area. It’s close by,” he told Prange.
“(The grid area) would be approximately three metres from the chopping block,” Prange responded.
Prange was the first of 76 Crown witnesses to testify in the case. Stobbe has pleaded not guilty and Killeen has not given any indication as to whether Stobbe will testify after the Crown is finished.
The Crown’s case is largely circumstantial. There were no witnesses to Rowbotham’s death and no murder weapon was ever recovered.
Crown attorney Wendy Dawson, in her opening statement Monday, said Stobbe and Rowbotham had been a happy couple while in Regina, but their marriage started to unravel after the family moved to Manitoba.