Officials: Husband Killed Wife
James Robarge, Facing Murder Charge, Fights Extradition to N.H.
James Robarge, 43, listens to his attorney Mimi Brill during his extradition hearing in Brattleboro, Vt., yesterday. Robarge faces a charge of second-degree murder in New Hampshire of his wife, Kelly Robarge, but is currently held on charges unrelated to his wife’s death. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell talks with reporters after the extradition hearing of James Robarge, 43, at Windham District Court in Brattleboro, Vt. yesterday. Robarge is charged in New Hampshire with the second-degree murder of his wife, Kelly Robarge, but is currently held in Vermont on charges unrelated to his wife’s death. Robarge refused to be transfered to New Hampshire and the state has 30 days to request his return to be tried on the murder charge. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »
Brattleboro — Murder suspect James Robarge is fighting extradition to New Hampshire after law enforcement officials issued an arrest warrant for him yesterday and charged him with one count of reckless second-degree murder of his estranged wife, Kelly Robarge, who went missing on June 27.
The remains of Kelly Robarge, 42, of Charlestown, were found Saturday by search teams in a wooded area near Britton Road in Unity, not far from where she was last seen at her home on Happy Acres Road in Charlestown.
James Robarge, 43, of Saxtons River, Vt., is already being held at the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield, Vt., after being arrested on July 2 when he fled police officers. Robarge has been charged in Vermont with attempting to elude with gross negligent operation of a vehicle, a felony, and gross negligent operation, a misdemeanor, during an encounter with police in Bellows Falls, Vt.
The warrant from New Hampshire came as state officials filed an affidavit that outlines police finding evidence linking James Robarge’s car to the site near where his wife’s body was discovered in the woods in Unity, N.H., as well as blood smears in the home where Kelly Robarge lived and scratch marks on James Robarge’s body and blood stains in his car. The affidavit also reports that James Robarge had become increasingly violent toward Kelly Robarge and had told one of his daughters that he learned his wife had begun a relationship with another man.
Robarge had the option to waive his rights in court yesterday, which would have allowed him to return to New Hampshire immediately. By choosing to fight extradition, Robarge has now started a process in which the New Hampshire governor has to file a request for his return with the governor of Vermont, who in turn has to consent to Robarge’s transfer so he can be tried in New Hampshire, Windham County State’s Attorney Tracy Shriver said.
Judge David Suntag ordered Robarge held without bail, and another court date will be set in Vermont in about 30 days. However, New Hampshire Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said it could take as long as 60 days for the extradition process to be completed. In the meantime, Robarge has the right to file a habeas corpus and argue that he’s being held in jail unlawfully on the second-degree murder charge.
During yesterday’s arraignment in Windham Superior Court, Robarge wore a white t-shirt covered by a loose fitting dark blue cover-up and blue pants. His ankles were shackled, and he wore white sneakers. Robarge has a brown mustache and facial hair.
Kelly Robarge filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences, on the same day that she went missing, according to court records.
Family members and friends met at the Charlestown Fire Department yesterday and listened to investigators as they told the family how they found Kelly Robarge’s remains, which had to be identified through dental records and a tattoo of a hummingbird and flowers. New Hampshire Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval classified Kelly Robarge’s death as a homicide, although the exact cause of death could not be determined.
Kelly Robarge’s grandmother, Mary Wright, said yesterday that she was not surprised that James Robarge is wanted by New Hampshire officials for reckless second-degree murder.
“He was always so mean to her,” Wright said, while sitting at the kitchen table in her Charlestown home.
Wright said that James Robarge would bruise his wife.
“But there were times in that house that he was nice as pie,” Wright said. “You’d never know they fought. Then there were times he’d be so angry that he’d take a hold of her and pull her hair.”
As for Kelly Robarge, she was a caregiver, working two jobs to help support her two children, or taking care of her mother after she had surgery, Wright said. Kelly Robarge took it upon herself to organize Thanksgiving and Christmas get-togethers.
“How anyone could hurt someone like that, I don’t know,” Wright said.
A court affidavit gives the following account:
On June 27, the Robarge’s daughter, Ciera, said she received text messages from her father at about 2:40 p.m. asking if she knew the location of her mother. Robarge told Ciera that he had found his 1-year-old grandson at home alone crying on the couch, but there were no signs of Kelly Robarge. When Ciera arrived at the house, James Robarge left and said he was going to go look for his wife.
Police officers later arrived at the house, and found blood smears on the toilet seat and lid and on the wall near the front door. Blood was also found on a support beam in the kitchen and living room area and there were blood droplets on the wooden floor near the support beam. Several guns were also found in a spare bedroom.
Ciera told police that she noticed part of the staircase was broken and part of the front door was damaged.
Ciera continued to communicate with her father after he left the house and learned that his car had broken down on Chestnut Street in Unity, N.H.
Claremont Police Officer Eric Fosterling later found Robarge walking on the side of the road about 100 yards from his vehicle. Robarge was wearing jean shorts, sneakers and no shirt.
Robarge told Fosterling that he was looking for his wife when his car broke down. Fosterling noticed that Robarge had injuries to his thumbs and index fingers, one of his knuckles was swollen and he had two to three parallel abrasions on his neck. Since he wasn’t wearing a shirt, the officer could see a scratch on his chest, and he had two parallel scratch marks on his torso. Robarge said the marks were from his dogs.
Another officer saw what appeared to be blood on the right inner sole of Robarge’s sneaker. When Robarge was asked how the blood got on his sneaker, he didn’t respond. An officer also saw a blood stain on Robarge’s left pant leg. Robarge was carrying two knives on him and said he had been drinking.
Police found two towels covered in blood about 15 feet from Robarge’s Volkswagen Jetta. Between the two towels was an orange plastic coated cord, knotted in several places which appeared to have blood stains. A blood stained floor mat from a car’s trunk was found a few feet from the towels, and Robarge’s car was missing a trunk floor mat.
When Kelly Robarge’s body was found more than a week later, it was only two miles from where James Robarge’s car had broken down on the day of his wife’s disappearance.
Kelly Robarge’s remains were found about 300 yards off Britton Road in Unity. A grassy road led to where the remains were discovered and along the path, a trail of oil was detected, surrounded by metal and aluminum that “could be consistent with the oil pan of a motor vehicle.”
When police checked out Robarge’s vehicle, they found damage to the underbody and no oil on the dip stick. Officers found that the oil pan under the car was punctured, and when police first approached the vehicle on June 27, they detected a strong smell of oil.
After officers found James Robarge near his vehicle on June 27, he was taken to the Claremont Police station. Robarge consented to a search of the house and cars, but when Robarge was told he was “being detained pending the investigation of his wife’s disappearance,” he fled and ran about half a mile before he was caught. Robarge was detained in a holding cell while officers waited for a “body warrant.”
The warrant to search for Robarge and his effects was executed on the afternoon of June 28 and he was later released.
During interviews with police, Gabrielle Robarge said her parents had been fighting for “some time” and their fights had become physical. Eiron Kimball, one of Kelly Robarge’s friends, said James Robarge has been verbally abusive and pushed his wife and put his hands around her throat. A couple nights before she disappeared, Kelly Robarge told Kimball that her husband had prevented her from leaving the house and kicked the car, leaving dents.
Kimball said Kelly had confided in her that in the past, her husband had threatened to kill her by “putting her in a wood splitter” if she filed for divorce. Kimball said Kelly confided to her that she had started a relationship with another man.
Ciera Robarge also told police her father had told her that Kelly Robarge was having an affair and she planned to take the house and the truck in the divorce.
A white barricade with signs warning, “Road closed” and “No thru traffic” was still placed at the end of Happy Acres Road yesterday as it has been since Kelly Robarge’s disappearance. But the yellow tape blocking the Robarge home was no longer there. Ciera Robarge was at the home yesterday with the family’s five German shepherds, but declined to comment.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.