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Body in Backyard trial started 
 by Linda Baker covering the trial
Updated 03/21/06 12:07:00 AM   

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March 20, 2006 Fort Worth
Body found in septic tank 

Kevin Rotenberry

Jury selection was completed Monday on the watered down Tampering With Physical Evidence charges against Kevin Wayne Rotenberry, 31, of 700 Colleyville Terrace; originally arrested two years ago for 1st Degree Murder, for killing his step-grandfather and burying the body in the septic tank a few yards from the patio.  Testimony begins in Judge Robert Gill's 213th District Court 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The Grand Jury later failed to indict Kevin Rotenberry on the Murder charge, and instead brought forth two lesser charges, in spite of the victim's body unearthed in the specific place described by witnesses. 

Krystal Rotenberry

Peggy Rudene Rotenberry
Mug shots from Colleyville Police
Indications by authorities hint that because some of the time elapsed since the murder, the multiple Rotenberry relatives likely to be involved and/or witnesses, the possibility of the involvement of the victim's wife, now deceased, conclusive proof that the Murder was done solely by Kevin was too scant. Kevin's sisters, Peggy Rudene Rotenberry, and Krystal Rotenberry both supported their brother during the Grand Jury hearings.

Patrick Martin Cunningham

The victim, Patrick Martin Cunningham, was the last of several husbands previously married to Rotenberry's since-deceased maternal grandmother, Peggy Dudley Wells Tubbleville Cunningham. Cunningham's skeletal remains were dug up from an unused septic tank in the backyard of Kevin's family's home in Colleyville in March, 2004, after authorities researched a tip from a Tubbleville cousin in October, 2003, who alleged Kevin had told him about the 1996 murder of the step-grandfather.

Dustin Tubbleville

Dustin Tubbleville wasn't the first to tell the tale to authorities, however. 

As early as December of 2002, a woman named Christy Shepherd, sister of an ex-boyfriend of Krystal Rotenberry, Kevin's youngest sister, went to the Texas Rangers with information Krystal had related to her about the recent Thanksgiving Dinner at the family home, where "the whole Rotenberry family was drunk or high, " according to the Arrest Warrant. The warrant went on to detail an argument that ensued during the meal where the father, Richard Rotenberry, and Kevin admitted to killing the grandfather, "and burying him in the backyard." 

"Supposedly", the grandfather "continuously beat...Peggy Tubbleville, and Richard and Kevin had enough of it." Joining the argument, besides Richard and Kevin, the warrant continued, was Anita Wells Rotenberry, the mother and Richard's wife. "Anita Wells Rotenberry was also present and was reported to have said to Kevin, 'Your father beats me all the time. Why haven't you killed him like y'all did grandpa?'" 

Christy Shepherd told the Texas Rangers that the grandfather was never reported as missing, and thought that the grandmother, Peggy Tubbleville, was told he had run off. 

The Texas Rangers began a search based on existing property tax records for 700 Colleyville Terrace, which listed the home's previous owners as Limal and Peggy Tubbleville. But they had the wrong grandpa. After determining that a death certificate had been issued for Limal Tubbleville in Oklahoma on January 7, 1997, byf natural causes, the investigation was concluded and the file closed.

Then a year later, enter Dustin Tubbleville, another sterling member of the extended Rotenberry family. Dustin had been jailed in Southlake for numerous drug and parole violation warrants along with warrants from Fort Worth and Johnson County. He requested an interview with Detective Hillary Wreay of the Colleyville Police. From the Arrest Warrant narrative, "Tubbleville proceeded to tell Wreay a smimilar story of a murder and buried body as had been reported previously by Christy Shepherd. Wreay told him that the allegations had been investigated and it had been determined that Limal Tubbleville had not been murdered."

"Dustin Tubbleville explained that it had not been Limal that had been murdered, it had been Pat Cunningham. He explained that his grandmother had been married several times and that the investigators had researched the wrong husband."

"Dustin further explained that in approximately 1996 or 1997 he was told by his grandmother, Peggy (Tubbleville) Cunningham that his grandfather, Pat Cunningham, had left her. Three years went by with no word from Pat Cunningham when Dustin Tubbleville learned from his cousin, Kevin Rotenberry, that Kevin Rotenberry had killed Cunningham."

"Kevin Rotenberry told Dustin that one evening in 1996 or 1997, Peggy Cunningham had come over to Kevin's residence to see Kevin's mother, Anita Rotenberry. Kevin observed that Peggy had been beaten and he decided it was the last time."

"Kevin then went over to Pat Cunningham's house at [3514] Lulu Street in Fort Worth, and killed Cunningham with a knife. Kevin then put the body in the trunk of Cunningham's Cadillac and drove over to his own home in Colleyville at 700 Colleyville Terrace. Kevin's father, Richard Rotenberry, then assisted Kevin in burying the body in the back yard."

"Kevin told Dustin that the body was cut up when it was buried. Dustin also heard this from Kevin's wife, Robin [Bright] Rotenberry. Kevin Rotenberry told Dustin that the family dog dug up the body once, so they had to bury it again and in a deeper hole."

"On 10-24-2003, Kevin and Dustin were watching a religious show on television when Kevin stated that he believed God would forgive him for the murder of Pat Cunningham because it had been a crime of passion."

Texas Rangers began investigating the disappearance of Pat Cunningham, finding that he had an extensive criminal history himself, no job held since August of 1996, and at least one incident in Fort Worth in June of 1996 where Peggy Tubbleville Cunningham had been hospitalized after a beating at Cunningham's hands. His Texas Drivers License expired in October, 1999, and while relatives were contacted, none had heard from Pat since 1988 or 1989.

Peggy Cunningham file for divorce on November 4, 1996, stating that her husband had not returned since leaving their residence in August, 1996 and she had "not heard from him since." The divorce was granted in March of 1997. Peggy Tubbleville Cunningham died in 2000 after a lawn tractor fell on her. 

Pat Cunningham's 1990 Cadillac title was transferred to Anita Wells Rotenberry on June 17, 1998 and title to the home at 700 Colleyville Terrace, long held by members of the Tubbleville family, was transferred to Anita Wells Rotenberry in 2001, from the "Estate of Peggy Lue Tubbleville". 

As reported in by Local News Only in April, 2004, Krystal Rotenberry, along with boyfriend Bobby D. Steele of Euless, were arrested for Drug Possession on a routine traffic stop in Colleyville, on March 28, 2004, just two days before the search warrant was issued on March 30th. Whether Bobby D. Steele will also testify to what he knows at the trial is unknown at this time.

Previous LNO reports of interest:

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