Temple convicted by own mistakes, detectives say

By MARK DOUGLAS | News Channel 8

Published: August 05, 2011


Detectives spent a dozen years trying to build a murder case against Robert Temple, but in the end, they say, Temple got himself convicted.

“We knew he was the prime suspect all along,” said Pinellas Sheriff’s Detective Jim Beining, one of the original investigators on the case.

In his first public interview since the stabbing death of Temple’s wife, 44-year-old Rosemary Christensen, Beining told News Channel 8 that Temple set in motion a series of events leading to his conviction and life sentence Saturday.

A key piece of evidence was a sealed plastic tub Temple used to bury his wife.

For nine years, lying beneath the ground in a wooded area of Gilchrist County, the tub preserved the robe Christensen was wearing. Punctured in three places, it provided the only evidence of the fatal stab wounds she suffered.

“We thank Robert Temple for that,” Beining said.

Temple spent those nine years crisscrossing the country with girlfriend Lesley Stewart while cold case Detective Mike Bailey monitored his movements. Investigators couldn’t make an arrest because Christensen’s body was still missing.

Then, out of the blue, Stewart contacted authorities in September 2008 with the break they’d been waiting for — the location of Christensen’s body near the Suwannee River and the story of how it go there.

“Her story obviously rang a little more true than Mr. Temple’s did,” Bailey said.

After Christensen’s disappearance, Temple insisted his wife had vanished with “swingers” she met on the Internet. He even told detectives he’d seen her in Phoenix years later.

“His whole life is a continuous lie,” Beining said. “And he’s comfortable with that.”

Saying she feared for her own life later, Stewart finally exposed him.

Detectives say if Temple had killed Stewart – as she has said he often threatened to do – he would still be a free man.

Temple, 61, may also have helped convict himself by deciding to act as his own attorney.

“You represent yourself in a felony case, pro se, it’s bordering on stupidity,” said criminal defense lawyer Roger Futerman. “You represent yourself in a murder trial, it’s beyond stupidity.”

Futerman said he observed much of the trial from the courtroom gallery and watched Temple stumble through rules of evidence and courtroom procedure in a way that would have had any licensed attorney held in contempt of court.

“In my humble opinion, the way he represented himself was a disastrous tactical decision,” Futerman said.

Perhaps Temple’s worst error was alienating the jury.

“I think from the beginning of this case to the end of the case, they didn’t like Mr. Temple,” Futerman said.

“I saw several jurors turn their head, look away, react. … He said some nonsensical things that just made the jury cringe.”