Anne Marie Stout
You know, there are several cliches out there that are true. One of them is “You never divorce the same person you married.” Of course I do not believe you remain married to the same person you married either. We all grow, mature and change based on events in our lives. But, the cliché that is most fitting for this case is “Hell have no fury like a Woman Scorned.” For those of us who have little issue with telling people they are “crazy,” it is when you read a story such as this one that you realize there are levels of crazy that even you cannot touch. And, let me be clear, I am not talking about someone who is legally or even diagnosed as mentally ill, I am talking about those who take things like jealousy, revenge or greed to a level that most of us cannot even fathom. Sure, sometimes people can imagine things they would do, or even come up with how they could do it, but few of us actually follow through with those thoughts.
I have done case after case that involve the murder of a spouse. There are the “spur” of the moment murders, there are the murder for hire murders and there are the murders that have been planned out for months or longer. But, if prosecutors are right, and at this point I have no reason to believe they are not, Anne Marie Stout perpetrated a crime that it took her at least over two years to carry out. There is really no way of knowing just exactly when Anne Marie Stout decided to kill her husband Bill and by the sounds of things she has not and will not ever admit guilt so we may never know. Did she start planning it when her oldest son committed suicide in 2000? Did things fester over the next several years and she decide maybe in 2003? It is believed that she may have at least conceived the idea in 2005 after Bill admitted that he had began an affair with an old girlfriend. It had not lasted long and at the point in which Bill confessed to Anne Marie he had done with the intention of ending the affair and working on his marriage. Now, to be fair I am unsure that in 2005 Anne Marie had decided to kill her husband. She had however decided to make him pay for the affair with more than just being remorseful, and in the process she could let others know what he had done, as well as show him what a good choice he had made in picking her over the mistress. In my opinion that was the original plan. I think Anne Marie just wanted people to know or at least think that she was a wonderful wife and mother and deserved better than Bill Stout, even if she was going to keep him. She needed to be the victim while Bill was the evil one, not just in their marriage or their home, but to their closest friends and family. I do believe that obviously at some point she decided that was not enough and while she may have appeared to have forgiven her husband, deep down she had not, and that is when she decided to murder him. And, she had already laid a path leading to someone else. She just simply forgot that science and forensics would be her downfall.
On the afternoon of June 10, 2007 Anne Marie Stout had returned home with one of her teenage sons. They went into their Darby Montana home and Anne Marie made her way upstairs to find her husband. She found him alright. Some would say she found him right where she had left him the night before. She would allege to authorities that yes, she found him where she had last seen him, but not the night before, she claimed to have seen and talked to him that morning before she and her son left to go shopping. Bill was still laying in the bed the couple shared, in a pool of blood from the gunshot to his head. Investigators quickly had to rule out homicide. For one, Bill had apparently been shot in the back of his while he was lying on the bed. For two, it was pretty obvious that Bill could not have shot himself and then hid the gun as one was not found in the bed, let alone the room. The investigation also determined that Bill's body had been moved after he had been shot and almost instantly died. They found blood under the sheet that had covered him.
The best I could find was that Bill and Anne Marie Stout had been married in the mid-1980's. At the time Anne Marie had a son, Ben. After the marriage Bill had adopted Ben and then the couple had two more sons, Noah and Matthew. On January 11, 2000, eighteen year old Ben, who was home during a winter break from school had committed suicide. There is not a lot of information surrounded what may have been the reason for his suicide but as is nearly often the case it took a toll on the Stout marriage. Some reports say that Bill allegedly blamed Anne Marie while other reports state that the couple both alternatively blamed each other. It would not be uncommon for either of them to blame themselves also. Then there does not seem to be a lot of information beyond this for the next five years. There is a report that in 2004 Bill got some life insurance that had a clause that it would not pay out if he committed suicide with a two year period. This clause ran out in January of 2005.
In March of 2005 Bill went on a weekend trip alone. Reports are conflicting as to whether this was a high school reunion or whether he had gone to the wedding of an old friend. I also was not completely clear as to whether the trip was made to Arkansas or that was just where Barbara Miller, and old high school girlfriend of Bill's currently resided. Regardless, reports are not conflicting on the fact that Anne Marie had chose not to go and that Bill and Barbara “hooked up” on this trip. According to Barbara, Bill had expressed troubles in his marriage, including the suicide of his son and had indicated that he was considering a divorce from Anne Marie. She claims they had made some plans for a possible future but that in May of 2005, after two months of near constant emailing, she received one in which Bill expressed that he had made a mistake and was ending the affair. IT seems as if Bill had readily confessed the affair to Anne Marie and the couple had decided to work on their marriage and make it work.
Over the next two years several unsettling things happened. First, it appeared that Anne Marie, at least one of their children, and friends and family members began getting emails from “Barbara Miller.” They were revenge and hate filled emails. It was said that at least one of the sons responded back to the email. The Stouts even had their car vandalized. When they called the police to report the incident they both reported they believed it to be Barbara Miller who had done it. It does not appear as if investigators looked too deeply into the situation when it was reported however because when authorities went to Barbara Miller's door to talk to her in June of 2007 and report to her that not only had Bill been murdered, but his family had claimed she had been stalking him, investigators felt she was genuine in her stance of innocence. Of course I do have to admit that while they were tracking down this lead and had the alleged emails in hand that had reportedly been sent to the Stouts and others, it is likely they already had their suspicions.
The first sign that something did not seem right with Anne Marie's story came after the autopsy was done. Remember that Anne Marie stated she had seen Bill the morning of his murder and had talked to him. She had left the home at eight that morning and did not return until four-thirty that afternoon. She had taken seventeen year old Matthew with her. According to the medical examiner the contents of Bill's stomach indicated that his death showed that Bill had been dead some eight to ten hours before Anne Marie said she last saw him at eight that morning.
But, more importantly, the day after the murder the Stout home had been searched. Between the medical examination and just some strange feelings from investigators, including the fact that after finding her husband's body she had gathered her son Matthew back up, really telling him nothing she had gotten back in their vehicle and drove to a neighbors house before calling 911. This seemed odd. We have all heard the 911 calls made when someone has either come home to find the body of a loved one or for whatever reason had crossed paths with a body. They always ask if the person was alive and if they are the caller is often instructed on how to perform CPR to keep that way until help could arrive. Anne Marie claimed she had not touched the body so essentially she could not have known if he was dead or alive when she got home. The defense would later put this off as she being in shock or trying to shield her son. But, on that Monday a 9 mm Beretta pistol was found in the saddlebag of a motorcycle that was kept in the garage of the home. Investigators would learn that on May 31st Bill had reported this gun missing and/or stolen, along with two magazines. It would later be determined to be the gun used to murder Bill Stout. Seemingly a lot of other evidence was found but to be fair I am unsure if it was all found during this same search, or in a subsequent search. I will get to all of that in just a bit. It is suffice to say that Bill Stout was murdered either late Saturday night/early Sunday morning on July 9/10 and by Friday, the 15th his wife was arrested and charged with deliberate homicide. Some reports claim her arrest occurred as early as Wednesday but most agree with Friday and I am going to have to agree that was likely the day.
So as I said by the time investigators were talking to Barbara Miller in Arkansas, they already likely knew she had not murdered Bill Stout. However, they also likely knew that any defense attorney worth his salt was going to plant that seed in the minds of jurors so they needed to investigate this angle. They figured out pretty quickly that Barbara had not been in Montana at the time of the murder, but of course that did not mean she could not have had it done, no matter how unlikely it seemed. Then investigators started talking to her about the allegations of “stalking” made not just by Anne Marie, but by friends and family, and even Bill prior to his death. Barbara was all but dumbfounded. She admitted to the brief affair. She even admitted to sending one responding email to Bill after he broke things off, she also admitted it may have not been one her finest moments in her wording. But, she had adamantly denied contacting Bill, Anne Marie or any friends and family after that point. When shown the emails that had been provided to them Barbara expressed that was not her email address.
Anne Marie Stout went on trial in June of 2008, one year after the murder of her husband. Prosecutors would show proof that the emails that had been allegedly sent to friends and family from Barbara Miller were not only not from Barbara but the email account had been created on Anne Marie Stouts work computer. Prosecutors alleged that despite her outward appearance of forgiving her husband and working on her marriage that Anne Marie only became more furious and decided to make her husband pay. They claim she subjected him to what they called private and public humiliation and then decided to shoot him. They believed that all of her actions were leading up to his murder but it was Bill's decision (they make it sound as if he made the decision alone) to sell the couple's home in May of 2007 that was the last straw for Anne Marie. Whether this all went back to the suicide of her son one can only imagine.
The prosecution alleged that on the night of June 9, 2007 Anne Marie had fixed dinner for herself, Bill and their son Matthew. Seventeen year old Matthew had gone out that night and son Noah was at college. They believe that after dinner Anne Marie and Bill had gone upstairs where they had sex and after Bill fell asleep she had shot him and then arranged his body in the bed. By the time Matthew came home she seemed calm and normal. Then the next morning she was sure to leave the house with Matthew so she could come back home and report “finding” him. In the meantime not only had she taken the gun and hidden it in the saddlebag in the garage, she had hidden the holster, and a pair of blood socks in the bottom of a hamper that contained her clothes. Some reports say a latex glove was also found in the laundry hamper while other reports say that the glove was found in Anne Marie's car. Regardless of where it was found, the latex glove was found to have gunshot residue embedded on the outside, but inside contained the DNA of Anne Marie Stout.
There was some indication that while the family had a home computer, the work computer that investigators had determined had been used to create the fake email accounts, was also in the home and accessible to others. However, on the work computer they found searches for “divorce,” “planning a divorce,” and one for “Barbara Miller.” Between the two computers there were over 56 searches on basically how to murder someone and get away with it. Many of those searches revolved around poisons and how to make them.
Matthew Stout was forced to testify about the night prior to his father's murder, as well as the day his body was found. He was also questioned extensively about how much he knew about his father's affair with Barbara Miller and about searches he may or may not have made on the computer. From prosecutors perspective if Anne Marie was going to claim she was not responsible for her husband's death the only other person it could seemingly be was Matthew. Of course prosecutors did not believe he was involved but they wanted to nip that idea in the bud. It is not uncommon for a parent, or at least through their attorney in an effort to create reasonable doubt to indicate the child could have been involved. To be fair that does not seem to have been the case here but of course prosecutors may not have known that going in and even if they did they wanted to leave no doubt.
Anne Marie did something that few defendants do, she testified on her own behalf. She proclaimed her innocence claiming that Bill continued to be her “best friend.” And, despite never apparently naming Matthew by name the defense argued that the computers were available to all household members and that it could not be proven that it was Anne Marie who not only made the fake email address, pretending to be Barbara Miller, but any of the other searches made on the computers.
The is one other piece of evidence that was found that I want to discuss but I have to admit I not only know little about it, I understood it even less. It was said that a note was found in Anne Marie's nightstand next to the bed and there seems to be no dispute that it was in her handwriting. The prosecution allege that it contained instructions on how to fire a pistol similar to the one that was used in the murder. Anne Marie, or at least through her attorney's, claim that this note was not instructions on how to fire a gun but a guide for her son Noah, who was in college, on how to use a washing machine. While I admit that I do not know a lot about guns and when I have questions about them I discuss them with my husband to get some specifics if I cannot find the answer or I need to run a scenario by him, but this seemed extremely odd to me. In fairness I never saw a copy of the “note” or even exactly what the note said. That being said I am uncertain how instructions on how to run a washing machine could in any way, shape or form sound like instructions on how to fire a gun.
With all of that being said after a three week trial it took the jury less than six hours to render a verdict of guilty of “deliberate homicide.” On September 28, 2008 the judge sentenced Anne Marie Stout to life in prison, but that is not all. The judge also ordered that she pay $57, 127 of courts costs and later ordered that the amount be increased if there was an appeal. While I have rarely seen this kind of “restitution” ordered I was more interested in other comments that the judge made. The judge continued in his order that Anne Marie Stout was to complete recommended mental health treatment as well as be completely psychologically evaluated before parole would ever be considered. He stated that she seemed to suffer from the inability to accept reality.
By 2011 two appeals had been filed and both courts had upheld her conviction and sentence. Amazingly it seems that she still seems to attempt to argue through the appeals not only her innocence but claiming that Bill was not murdered but committed suicide. This whole idea floors me. While I suppose she has to be given credit for not trying to implicate her son since it would appear that if Bill was murdered they were the only two people who could have done it, it still just floors me that she can attempt to continue to argue Bill committed suicide. I should also point out that I have seen nothing that indicates that in her attempts to claim the suicide theory she has changed her story of events in any way. She apparently still claims to have never moved the body or the gun and maintains she came home and simply found him. I am going to have to agree with the judge on this one, Anne Marie Stout cannot, or will not accept reality.