NEWPORT, N.H. (AP) — A man convicted of beating his wife to death hours after she filed for divorce was sentenced Friday to 30 years to life in prison, shortly after his lawyer read a statement about how much he loved his wife.
James Robarge, 45, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Kelly Robarge, who disappeared from her Charlestown home June 27, 2013. Her badly decomposed body, with her hands and head detached, was found 10 days later in Unity.
The couple's two daughters spoke tearfully about losing their mother and best friend but bemoaned the loss of their father as well.
"I love and miss my mom more and more every day," Ciera Robarge said. "My mom didn't deserve this."
In the statement read by James Robarge's lawyer, he told his daughters, "I love you guys more than life itself" and called their mother "the love of my life."
As 42-year-old Kelly Robarge returned from court June 27, she texted a friend that her husband was at the Charlestown house they once shared; by that time, James Robarge had moved to Vermont to live with his father because the couple was estranged. The friend asked whether he knew about the divorce filing.
"Not yet. I'm gonna tell him." That was the last Lori Laird heard from her friend.
Prosecutors said the foyer of Kelly Robarge's home contained "countless" spatters of blood" and that James Robarge's disabled car was found several miles from where her body was discovered with a bloodstained trunk and numerous bloody items outside it.
Because of the condition of her body, a medical examiner could not pinpoint the cause of death or determine how her head and hands became detached but concluded she died as the result of "homicidal violence."
During two days of testimony, Robarge repeatedly denied threatening or harming his wife.
Kelly's brother, Ron Prouty Jr., faced James Robarge on Friday and told him, "I hope you rot in hell."
Robarge showed no visible reaction as members of Kelly's family spoke or to the sentence itself.
"There's only one motive for this crime," prosecutor Susan Morrell told the judge. "The defendant was angry and needed to control his wife. He imposed the death penalty on Kelly Robarge for asking for a divorce."
The state sought a sentence of 40 years to life. Robarge's lawyers wanted something in the 20-year range.
Defense attorney Caroline Smith said Ciera Robarge told a probation officer who prepared a presentence report that she did not want her father to go to prison. The couple's other daughter, Gabriel, wanted a sentence less than the state was requesting, but she didn't specify, Smith said. Presentence reports are confidential.
Smith said she was disappointed in the sentence. She had argued that Robarge had bipolar disorder and had sought mental health treatment for years.
The judge said he took into account the extent to which Robarge went to conceal his wife's killing and body and the couple's history of domestic violence.
Jurors in February rejected the first-degree murder charge prosecutors brought and instead found Robarge guilty of reckless second-degree murder for conduct that showed "extreme indifference to the value of human life."
"We felt he didn't go there to kill her," said Dwayne Lavecque, one of the jurors who attended the sentencing. "We felt he went there to confront her."