Tablet Local

Appeals court voids Denton County man’s murder conviction

The 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth overturned the conviction of a Denton County man sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2011 for killing his estranged wife.

The appeals panel said in an opinion issued Thursday that the jury should not have convicted Charles Stobaugh, 58, in the slaying of his wife, Kathy Stobaugh, 43, whose body was never found.

The panel held that there was insufficient evidence to convict Stobaugh beyond a reasonable doubt. Stobaugh was still housed at the Pack I Unit in Grimes County at 5 p.m. Friday, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice records.

The court set an appeal bond of $25,000, and Stobaugh could post that anytime, according to Jamie Beck, a spokeswoman for the Denton County district attorney’s office.

“We have 30 days to decide if we are going to file a Petition for Discretionary Review to the Court of Criminal Appeals,” Beck said in a statement emailed to the Star-Telegram on Friday. “The opinion is unusually long (176 pages). We will be methodical in our analysis and decision. If I had to say today, we will be filing that document, but we really need to take our time in making this determination.”

During Stobaugh’s February 2011 trial, defense attorneys argued that Kathy Stobaugh was still a missing person and that investigators had not adequately questioned some of her friends.

Investigators testified that nothing indicates that she was alive after she was last seen Dec. 29, 2004, because no one accessed her bank account or used her credit cards.

According to a website set up by the family after she disappeared, Kathy Stobaugh was last seen wearing a white shirt, gray flannel pants and a black hooded jacket. She drove a cream-beige 2000 Lincoln Town Car. It was found parked, with the keys in it, in the driveway of Charles Stobaugh’s home north of Sanger in Denton County.

Kathy Stobaugh had filed for divorce.

The previous December, she had graduated with honors from Texas Woman’s University and later began teaching.

Her teenage daughter reported her missing, and a reward for information about the case grew to $61,000. Officers always suspected foul play, and Stobaugh remained the only suspect, authorities have said.

Some witnesses testified that Kathy Stobaugh was afraid of her husband.

Charles Stobaugh said he did not know what happened to her, but he declined several times to take a lie-detector test. While Texas Rangers and sheriff’s deputies searched his 105-acre ranch and cleared farmland next to it, relatives conducted their own searches.

This report includes material from The Associated Press and the Star-Telegram archives.