Vermont man pleads not guilty in New Hampshire to killing wife


NEWPORT, N.H. -- A Vermont man prosecutors say killed his wife in New Hampshire just hours after she had filed for divorce had previously threatened to kill her and put her through a wood chipper if she sought to end their marriage, a trooper testified Thursday.

A Sullivan County judge Thursday ordered James Robarge held without bond pending trial on first-degree and second-degree murder charges in the death of Kelly Robarge, after a nearly three-hour hearing that followed his not-guilty pleas.

New evidence came to light about the Robarges' turbulent marriage of more than 20 years: blood spatters found in her Charlestown home and a friend urging Kelly Robarge not to be alone when she told her estranged husband about the divorce petition.

Robarge's lawyers argued there is no evidence directly linking Robarge to his wife's killing, noting that a medical examiner couldn't pinpoint how Kelly Robarge died, except to say the manner of death was "homicide violence, cause unknown."

Kelly Robarge's decomposed and animal-ravaged body was found 10 days later in a remote area of Unity used by all-terrain vehicles. New Hampshire State Police Sgt. John Sonia testified her neck was missing.

Police picked up Robarge the night his wife disappeared, walking along the 2nd New Hampshire Highway after his car broke down about 2 miles from where the body was later found. Sonia said he had his wife's blood on his shorts. Bloody towels and a blood-soaked trunk were found nearby.

Sonia testified he believes Robarge put his wife's body in the trunk of his car, where it would have been when their daughter, Sierra, returned from work to the house she shared with her mother. Sierra arrived about an hour after James Robarge had texted to ask whether she knew where her mother was and asked when Sierra would be home. James told her he had found his 18-month-old grandson alone in the house.

Sonia said the evidence suggests Robarge drove the body to his stepfather's home in Saxtons River, Vt., where he was living at the time. He stopped briefly then took off again, the stepfather told police. Sonia said Robarge drove to where the body was dumped off the trail, behind a stand of trees.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell put into evidence a transcript of text messages between Kelly Robarge and close friend Lori Laird the morning Kelly field for divorce.

At 11:14 a.m. the day she disappeared, Kelly Robarge texted Laird to tell her she was returning home after filing for divorce, adding, "He's here." She told Laird she was about to tell him she had filed for divorce, and Laird told her not to do it alone. Laird told police she called Kelly on her cellphone and Lori confirmed James was at the house.

Sonia said DNA tests confirm blood spatters found in the home's entryway and on several pieces of furniture were Kelly's. There was a broken light switch that Sierra told police was not broken when she left for work.

The Robarges' daughters -- Sierra and Gabrielle -- declined to comment outside the courtroom, where they had wept silently during parts of Sonia's testimony.

No trial date has been set.


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