Charles Stobaugh sat in a small interview room with three law enforcement officers for more than three hours on Jan. 5, 2005. He placed his hands on his knees. He crossed his arms. He held his head in his arms with his hands on the back of his neck. He tried one tactic after another to convince the Texas Ranger, the Denton County sheriff's detective and the Sanger police officer that something else happened to his wife, Kathy, than what they believed had happened. Kathy Stobaugh
Ranger Tracy Murphree, Investigator Larry Kish and Officer Josh Vest made it clear to Stobaugh in a three-hour videotaped interview that they believed he killed his wife and hid her body.
"Something got out of hand out there, Charles," Murphree said.
Stobaugh stood up as though to leave.
"Something happened. … I don't think she's alive," Murphree said.
"You don't?" Stobaugh asked. "Well, that's all I can tell you. I've never laid a hand on her, ever."
Jurors sat through the first hour of the video Thursday before 362nd District Court Judge Bruce McFarling sent them home at 5 p.m. The trial and the rest of the video will begin today at 9 a.m.
Before the video began, prosecutor Cary Piel had Murphree go over the reasons he believes Kathy Stobaugh is dead and the reasons he believes that her estranged husband killed her the night of Dec. 29, 2004.
Defense lawyers Derrell Comer and Ed Zewlinski sat quietly without objection. Charles Stobaugh
Piel introduced two maps into evidence with more than 20 yellow dots on them. Murphree pointed to each yellow dot and explained where it was and who walked that area or rode it on horseback or traversed it with an SUV. Stobaugh's own relatives searched for his missing wife. He didn't join their search, or any one of the others, the Ranger said.
Investigators said they followed every lead for five years. Her bank account and her credit cards showed no activity. Neither did her cellphone. She did not pick up her last $3,700 paycheck from the Nocona school district.
Murphree said he fully investigated an old high school sweetheart she reconnected with after her separation in May 2004. The Haskell man saw her occasionally in a causal relationship but had a solid alibi for the night she died, he said.
He investigated another friend from high school, who was in another state with his wife and children at the time.
One time, a "meth head" was stopped on a traffic violation and told the officer that he had seen Kathy Stobaugh shot at a drug house. When Murphree interviewed him, he changed his story. Werewolves got Kathy Stobaugh, he said. He had been in jail at the time of her disappearance.
Once, her Social Security number was used to obtain a job. Murphree checked it out; an undocumented worker had used the number.
"Kathy Stobaugh is not doing manual labor in El Paso," Murphree testified.
Murphree pointed out inconsistencies Stobaugh made in the initial interviews and with a private investigator hired by the Munday family, Kathy Stobaugh's brothers and parents.
Piel played short passages of video from taped interviews of Stobaugh with Vest and with Murphree and Kish. He asked Murphree to point out where Stobaugh told conflicting stories.
Stobaugh told Murphree that he called his wife several times after she left his house that night when he contacted her to visit the farm where he still lived. He said he saw her pull out of the driveway and he went to bed. He found her car parked close to the garage the next morning, he said.
In the video, Murphree asked him what message he left on her voicemail.
"I said we want to know where you're at," he said.
But a check of his wife's telephone records showed no calls from his house to her phone and no messages.
Murphree testified that he questioned Stobaugh intensely about that, and that Stobaugh finally admitted it was a lie.
Piel, who along with his wife, Susan, is prosecuting Stobaugh, ran several clips that showed Stobaugh's ideas of what might have happened.
"I was just bumfuzzled," he said at one point. "The only thing I could think of was the car leaked water in the passenger seat when it rained and she wanted me to fix it."
Moments later he said, "She's trying to make me look like some kind of bad guy."
And then, "The first thing that came to my mind is she's playing a prank."
A few weeks after her disappearance, the Munday family hired a private investigator. Charles Stobaugh told that investigator that she had come out Dec. 27 and brought divorce documents that had three options for him to pick from on property settlement. Yet he told Murphree and Kish that he had never seen those documents, the Ranger testified.
He told the private investigator that he took $5,000 from his wife's bank account and hired an investigator of his own to find her. Her bank records showed no such activity, Murphree said, and it would have been illegal for him to access her account.
Stobaugh told the private investigator that his wife was angry when she left because he wanted to sell the farm and split the money but she wanted to save the land for their son. He told the investigator that she said she was leaving.
"She said, 'I'm going someplace where nobody can ever find me. Don't bother looking for me,'" Stobaugh said. "And I said, 'Going on another one of them trips, huh?'"
DONNA FIELDER can be reached at 940-566-6885. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .