The State of Texas v. Charles Stobaugh

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1 The State of Texas v. Charles Stobaugh Richard Villanueva Course: Government 2305/411 Professor: Mr. Moses Omane-Boateng Semester: Summer

2 Introduction A few days after Christmas in 2004, Kathy Stobaugh drove to her husband s house after Charles Stobaugh had called her to come to their Sanger home. Kathy was just hours from being granted a default judgment divorce from her husband of 20 years when she went to the home to meet with him. Around 9:16pm, while enroute to Charles house, Kathy tried to call her daughter Charee. At that same moment, Charee was trying to call her mom. Since the two were trying to call each other at the same time, the calls never connected. According to Charles, Kathy arrived to his home around 9:30 pm, to discuss the imminent divorce. This would be the last time that anyone would see or hear from Kathy Stobaugh. It had been five days since anyone had seen or heard from Kathy before Charee reported her missing to Sanger Police. A few weeks after Kathy s disappearance and failed search efforts, the authorities finally ruled her case as a cold case. Five years later, Kathy Stobaugh s case was reopened. Though the prosecution lacked a body or any forensic evidence, the Grand Jury felt they had enough circumstantial evidence. On November 12, 2009, the Grand Jury indicted Charles Stobaugh with intentionally or knowingly causing Kathy Stobaugh s death or by committing an act clearly dangerous to human life with the intent to cause serious bodily harm to Kathy Stobaugh, with death resulting. On February 18, 2011, in the 362 nd District Court of Denton County, TX, by a jury of his peers, Charles Stobaugh was found guilty of 1 st Degree Felony Murder of Kathy Stobaugh. Can a man be convicted of murder by a jury of his peers with no body, no blood, no crime scene, no murder weapon, no confession, and no witnesses? In this brief, we will identify key figures and themes involved in this case: Case Background, the Presiding Judge, the Attorneys, the Plaintiff, the Defendant, and the Verdict. 2

3 Main Ideas Background In December 2003, Kathy Stobaugh walked across the stage of Texas Woman s University to receive her long awaited college diploma. With degree in hand, Kathy began to focus on starting a new life, one without her husband Charles Stobaugh. In May 2004, unbeknownst to her husband, she hired a divorce attorney and signed a lease on a rental house in town. Though Charles did not know of Kathy s plan to leave, their daughter, Charee, joined Kathy on trips to the new house and shopping excursions for furniture for that house. Kathy was extremely excited for this fresh, new beginning. June 1, 2004, Kathy and Charles had approximately $77,000 in a savings account. Kathy withdrew exactly half of the amount, down to the penny and opened her very own bank account. Upon returning home and in fear of Charles reaction, Kathy hid the guns and hunting weapons in anticipation of Charles getting served. The next day, June 2, 2004, a process server knocked on the door and served Charles with the divorce papers. In a tirade, he ripped up the papers and threw them at the process server. Kathy was able to calm him and leave peacefully. That summer, with his family living close and in constant contact with him, Charles did not disclose to his family that Kathy had left him. He did not file an answer to the divorce, nor did he hire an attorney. Instead, he ignored it, wanting Kathy to come back home. Wednesday, December 29 would be the last day of Kathy s life. She spoke to her brother Chris and discussed plans to travel down to Gatesville that weekend to celebrate their grandfather s birthday. Kathy spoke to her close friend Linda about the divorce and ed her attorney the specifics of how she wanted the property split up. She then spent the rest of the day writing lesson plans on her home computer and preparing for the upcoming semester. Later that night, Charee, left to hang out with her friends, leaving Kathy at home alone. Around 8:30, her son Tommy arrived at her door unannounced. Charles dropped Tommy off at Kathy s house, simply turned around and returned home. Charles did not go to the door, nor did he contact Kathy to arrange the drop off. Upon returning home, Charles contacted Kathy and asked to speak to her about the divorce and what was discussed with her attorney. Kathy told Tommy goodbye but I ll be back and 3

4 headed out the door to meet Charles at his house. Around 9:16 pm, while driving to Charles house, Kathy tried to call Charee. At that same moment Charee was trying to reach her mom on the phone. The two called each other twice at 9:16 and since they were calling each at the exact same time, their phone calls could not connect. Later that evening, Charee tried calling her mom again but to no success. When Charee arrived at home around 1:15 am, she woke up Tommy and learned that her mother had gone to Charles house to discuss the divorce. Around 6:45 the next morning, unable to sleep Charee called her mother again only to have that call go straight to voic . She then drove to Charles house where she saw her mom s car in the driveway. Charee drove back to Kathy s house and tried to call her mom again but to no avail. By 9:15 am, she drove back to Charles house and this time Charles was standing outside next to Kathy s car. Charles explained to Charee how he and Kathy met the night before to discuss the divorce. According to Charles, the conversation had been fairly civil until the end when Kathy began voicing her frustration with Charles. Kathy then left and told Charles to not look for her because no one will ever be able to find her. Charles told Charee to not worry about it and that Kathy had gone off out of frustration. Charee, a 16 year old girl who had always been close to her mom was dumbfounded and didn t know what to do. After five days missing, Charee was told by one of Kathy s coworkers to notify the police and if she did not do it she would. After the conversation, Charee drove alone to the Sanger Police Department to report Kathy missing. After weeks of media coverage, fliers being posted, and countless man hours searching for Kathy s body, the authorities were told by the DA s office that without a body, there would be no murder case. Kathy s missing case was then turned into a cold case. In August 2009, Criminal District Attorney Susan Piel was working on another cold case with Texas Ranger Tracy Murphree. While the jury was deliberating that case, Ranger Murphree was asked by Cary Piel, who was assisting his wife Susan, do you have any other cold cases worthy of a second look? Ranger Murphree was told time and time again that without a body there was no murder case. Though they lacked a body or any forensic evidence, they felt they had an extremely compelling circumstantial case and took it before the grand jury with the approval of newly elected Criminal District Attorney Paul 4

5 Johnson. On November 12, 2009, Charles Stobaugh was indicted for intentionally and knowingly causing Kathy Stobaugh s death or committing an act clearly dangerous to human life with the intent to cause serious bodily injury to Kathy Stobaugh, with death resulting. The Presiding Judge The presiding judge was Judge Robert Bruce Mcfarling, a Republican from Flower Mound, TX. He is presiding judge for the 362 nd District Court of Denton County, and has been in office since January 1, 2001with his term ending on December 31, Judge McFarling has been practicing law for eighteen years and graduated from Texas Tech Law in The Attorneys The attorneys for the defense were Derrell Comer and Ed Zielinski. Derrell Comer is from Gainesville, TX and graduated from Texas Wesleyan Law in He currently carries a license to practice law in both Texas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. Ed Zielinski is also from Gainesville, TX and a graduate of Gonzaga University Law School. He is licensed to practice law in both states of New York and Texas. The attorneys for prosecution were Susan Piel, Cary Piel, and Caroline Simone. The lead prosecutor was Susan Piel who is from Denton, TX and graduated from Texas Tech Law in She is currently license to practice law in Texas and has been with Denton County s District Attorney s office since She is currently the Chief of Misdemeanor Trial Division. Cary Piel who is from Denton, TX and a graduate of University of Texas Law School in He has been licensed to practice law in the state of Texas since 1993and has his own law office in Denton. Caroline Simone is from Denton, TX and a graduate from SMU Law in She joined Denton County District Attorney s office in She has been licensed to practice law in Texas since 2006 and is known for being an aggressive trial lawyer. She is currently a Partner at the Jackson and Hagen Law Office in Denton. 5

6 The Plaintiff The plaintiff in this case is The State of Texas on behalf of the late Kathy Stobaugh. Kathy grew up in Gatesville, a small community just outside of Waco. Shortly after high school, Kathy moved to Denton to attend Texas Woman s University. While she was out with some of her friends, Kathy met Charles and they later married in Prior to their marriage, Kathy dropped out of school. During their marriage, their roles were extremely traditional. Charles enjoyed working the night shift so he could farm during the day. This type of schedule left Kathy as a mostly single parent when they had their two kids. Once their kids reach school age, Kathy began pursuing her college degree even though Charles was not supportive. In addition to all of her schoolwork and working fulltime, Kathy was doing all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking care of the children. She later confided in a coworker that her goal was to graduate, find a job, and a new place to live so she could divorce her domineering husband. In 2003, Kathy finally got the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive her college diploma. The Defendant The defendant in this case is Charles Stobaugh. Charles is a very controlling and manipulative man, especially with money. When Kathy and Charles married in 1984, Kathy was taking classes at Texas Woman s University. Through the influence and manipulation of Charles, Kathy dropped out of school. Later on when everyone was searching for Kathy, Charles did not participate in the search efforts. When he was questioned by the authorities, he continuously changed his story trying to throw off the police. Charles went as far as brainwashing his children into believing that he did not kill their mom. The Verdict After 10 hours of deliberation and only one note requesting the definition of reasonable doubt, the jury returned with a verdict. The courtroom was packed with witnesses, spectators and members of both families. Judge Bruce McFarling read the verdict of the jury, Guilty of 1 st Degree Felony Murder. With 6

7 an emotional plea from Charee Stobaugh to have leniency, the jury sentenced Charles Stobaugh to 25 years in prison. Conclusion On November 12, 2009, the grand jury believed there was enough circumstantial evidence to indict Charles Stobaugh with 1 st Degree Felony Murder. On February 18, 2011, with no forensic evidence to prove of the act, there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence for a jury of his peers to find Charles Stobaugh guilty of 1 st Degree Felony Murder of his wife Kathy Stobaugh. I believe the District Attorney s Office did a right thing by re-opening this case and pursuing justice for Kathy Stobaugh. Under Texas law, using circumstantial evidence and not providing evidence of a body is allowable to convict a defendant. 7

8 References Denton County Clerk s Office Case No. F D, Stobaugh 2613-D Trl Jmt. (Murder 1 st ) Texas District and County Attorneys Association, The Prosecutor, May-June 2011, Volume 41, No. 3, Vanished without a trace 8

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