A family once united by marriage sat on opposing sides of the courtroom Wednesday morning listening to final arguments in Charles Stobaugh's murder trial in the death of his wife Kathy in 2004.
Members of Kathy Munday Stobaugh's extended family crowded the benches behind prosecutors Cary and Susan Piel. Charles Stobaugh's mother, a brother, his daughter, son and other family and friends sat on the front pews behind the defense table. Few greetings were exchanged across the aisle.
The jury is deliberating his guilt or innocence, and earlier in the morning they heard the last efforts of each side to sway their decision.
Susan Piel was the first to speak. She told jurors that in order to understand the case, they had to understand Charles Stobuagh. He was a simple man who had spent his life amassing land and possession, and they were so important to him, she said.
Kathy Stobaugh was 23 when they married after high school. She evolved, but he didn't. She went back to college and began teaching.
"She changed the terms of their marriage. She told him the man doesn't always have to be in charge," Susan Piel said.
Several people testified that she was afraid of him, Piel said, to the extent that she developed a safety plan for her children when he was served with divorce papers.
Kathy Stobaugh disappeared Dec. 29, 2004 after meeting Charles Stobaugh at his farm northwest of Sanger.
If she had a plan to leave that night, Piel said, her plan had to have started with a phone call. The farm is secluded and Kathy Stobaugh couldn't have walked. She was 12 hours away from a default divorce, yet she would have had no money, no credit cards and no vehicle.
Piel spoke of evidence that showed Charles Stobaugh lied. He was going to lose half his land, and he was going to have to pay her for half of his farm equipment.
She said Kathy Stobuagh's social security number was never used again. She broke all ties to every person she ever knew.
"There is no evidence that she exists," Piel said.
She spoke of the defense team's attempts to discredit the victim, even using her daughter with testimony that Piel argued was not credible.
"They tried to throw dirt on her in this courtroom because she is dead and can't defend herself. But her life speaks for itself," Piel said.
Derrell Comer, Charles Stobaugh's lead defense attorney, said the state had provided no evidence that Kathy Stobaugh is dead and no evidence that Charles Stobaugh harmed her.
He said the state has still been following leads even into 2010. Why? Because they don't know that she is dead.
"The state is not even buying what they are trying to sell you, ladies and gentlemen," he said.
Comer told jurors the state had shown 469 exhibits, pictures of Kathy, pictures of the farm, places where they searched, her phone records.
But the state had only proven that Kathy Stobaugh was missing, he said.
"They have put her pictures right in your face, hoping you won't look at the big picture," Comer said.
He said that after the defense pointed out a trip she was planning to Florida, Texas Ranger Tracy Murphree went back through the files and found that evidence and that the Munday family provided him with more documents.
"How did the Munday family get those documents so fast? What else is the Munday family hiding from you?" he asked.
Comer said Charles Stobaugh told police he tried to call Kathy, but what he meant was that his daughter Charee Stobaugh tried to call her and he was standing beside his daughter.
"He used 'I' instead of 'we.' Is that such a big deal?" he asked.
He referred several times to Kathy Stobaugh's "secret lover" and asked the jury what other person was there in her life that nobody else knew anything about.
He asked the jury, "What happened to Kathy Stobaugh? Do any of you know beyond a reasonable doubt? If not you must find Charles Stobaugh not guilty."
Cary Piel said in summation that the state had used common sense to show them that Kathy Stobaugh was dead and that her husband had killed her.
Using circumstantial evidence and not providing evidence of a body is allowable to convict somebody under Texas law.
"The laws of Texas don't reward someone just because he got rid of her body real good," he said.
Cary Piel reminded the jury of all the testimony that showed she had not accessed her bank account, credit cards, cell phone and had not tried to contact anybody since that night.
He said a person doesn't have to be a criminal, a drug addict or insane to kill.
"You just have to be that guy," he said pointing to Charles Stobaugh. "If you back him into a corner, he'll kill you."
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .