In the weeks before her violent death, Beverly Rowbotham's marriage was being strained by loneliness and a sprawling house in bad need of repair, her sister testified Wednesday.

"She felt very isolated," Betty Rowbotham told jurors at the second-degree murder trial of Beverly's husband, Mark Stobbe.

"She felt Mark was spending way, way too much time at work.

"She was quite stressed."

Beverly Rowbotham and Stobbe had moved from Regina, where he had worked as a senior adviser to then Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, to a rural property in St. Andrew's, Man., in the spring of 2000. Stobbe had taken a job with the Manitoba government as a communications adviser.

In October, Rowbotham was found dead in her car some 20 kilometres away from her home. Her head had been bludgeoned. Eight years later, Stobbe was charged with second-degree murder. His trial is expected to last two months.

Betty Rowbotham said her sister Beverly came to see her a few weeks before she was found dead. She appeared very agitated and talked in general about being under a lot of stress, Betty said Wednesday.

"She said she didn't know if she could do this any more. I said she was a farm girl from Saskatchewan and she could do anything."

The Crown alleges Stobbe killed his wife during a heated argument in the family's backyard by hitting her in the head 16 times with a hatchet. The Crown's theory is that Stobbe then dragged his wife to one of the family's two cars in the garage, drove to Selkirk, Man., then bicycled back home and reported her missing hours later.

The Crown's cases is circumstantial. There were no witnesses to the death and so far, there have been no witnesses who saw the couple argue. The Crown is relying on DNA evidence as well as relatives' testimony about Stobbe and Rowbotham's marriage.

"I think they were very much in love ... they would cuddle a lot," Betty Rowbowtham said of the couple's early years in Regina. They married in 1993 and appeared content, she said, but tensions began to rise after they moved to Manitoba in 2000.

The wet, rainy spring meant there were a lot of mosquitoes, so the family stayed inside. The kids had no children nearby to play with and the neighbours were not very friendly.

"It was a very difficult adjustment," Betty Rowbotham said.

The house was infested with carpenter ants, several doors were sticking and there was a long list of needed repairs.

Beverly Rowbotham eventually became "very angry, very annoyed" and wanted to sell the house, her sister said.

Beverly also had "quite a temper," her sister testified.

"She would yell. She was very quick to cut people off."

Forensic evidence introduced earlier in the week showed there were drops of blood, bone fragments, and clumps of hair found by the dozen in the backyard and garage of the home. Eleven of the items were shown through DNA testing to have come from the deceased.

Defence lawyer Tim Killeen appeared to suggest some of that material may be related to a tree stump that the family used as a block to chop wood. Under cross-examination this week, Killeen asked an RCMP forensics expert how far the block was from the area where blood and other items were found.