Kathleen Marie "Kathy" Stabler was the wife of Detective Elliot Stabler, and the mother of five children. Their children are Maureen, Kathleen, Elizabeth, Dickie, and Elliot, Jr. In 2021, Kathy was severely wounded in a car bombing and ultimately succumbed to her injuries.
Kathleen Marie (later Stabler) had a sister in New Jersey and a cousin that worked in Central Booking.
Elliot and Kathy first met at a party. When she first saw Elliot, Kathy wanted to kiss him but was scared. Meanwhile, it took Elliot three beers to work up the nerve to say "Hello" and then they got really drunk while getting together (SVU: "Gray"). In previous episodes, it has been said that Elliot and Kathy were married before Elliot went into the Marines, which he joined after graduating high school, so it's possible that Elliot and Kathy were high school students at Catholic School Sisters of Mercy School, and went to a college frat party with mutual friends. Elliot and Kathy have admitted to sneaking out of the house to meet each other late at night (SVU: "Sophomore Jinx"), but when Elliot caught Maureen sneaking in late at night, he grounded her. Elliot and Kathy got married when they were 17 years old with a baby (Maureen) on the way. After Maureen was born, Elliot and Kathy took turns taking care of the baby and working to support themselves; Kathy would work days while Elliot would work nights (SVU: "Stolen"). Elliot went into the Marines when he turned 18 and came back after about two years when Maureen was a toddler (Shaken). Kathy became pregnant again while Elliot was unemployed so he chose to become a cop, and started attending the Academy; he was at a shoot out that was shown on television which Kathy saw, causing her to go into premature labor, giving birth to Kathleen (Serendipity). Elliot started working at the Special Victims Unit around the time the twins, Richard and Elizabeth, were born.
Before being partnered with Olivia Benson in 1998, Elliot was partnered with Jo Marlowe (his first female partner), Pete Breslin, Dave Rosetti, and "Old Fatso" Alfonse. The relationship between Jo and Kathy is unknown, but Jo asked Olivia if she and Elliot ever slept together, which Olivia denied, saying that he's married (SVU: "Torch"). Pete remembered Kathy but after several years of not being in touch, he did not know that Elliot and Kathy were separated (SVU: "Ripped"). Dave Rosetti committed suicide, and "Old Fatso" retired to Florida when Olivia joined the unit and became Elliot's partner.
Elliot did not like to bring his work home. He did not want to be the window to the world that he saw every day on the job. He is overprotective of his children (SVU: "Slaves", "Wrong Is Right", "Serendipity", "Sophomore Jinx", "Lunacy"). This caused problems in their marriage because Elliot had a very difficult time opening up (SVU: "Monogamy") and it was making him difficult to live with. Kathy was also worried that Elliot preferred to spend most of his time with Olivia rather than with his family. Olivia being an attractive single woman scared Kathy into thinking she would lose her husband; but she didn't need to worry because Elliot used to talk about her all the time and Olivia respected their marriage (Swing, Burned, Torch). Kathy also came to see Olivia as a good friend, sometimes asking for advice while jokingly calling her Elliot's “work wife”.
Elliot was also briefly partnered with Dani Beck while separated from Kathy, but they did meet when Elliot went to the hospital after being stabbed by a pen; Donald Cragen was the one who notified a very worried Kathy. Although Kathy was pleasant to Dani, she later revealed to Benson that she did not like her, and possibly suspected that there was something going on between Elliot and Dani, who were holding hands before Kathy came in, after which Elliot quickly dropped Dani's hand. He introduced Kathy as his wife despite their separation (SVU: "Cage", "Burned").
Kathy even encouraged Elliot to be more involved in their children's lives because it was hard for them with their parents being separated.
After 20 years of marriage, Kathy filed for separation and moved herself and the kids to live at her mother's (SVU: "Doubt"). Kathy eventually filed for divorce (SVU: "Raw"), but Elliot had not signed the divorce papers, because he had them at home. He wouldn't talk to her or her lawyer about signing the papers (SVU: "Clock") until he was involved in a case where a married couple was abusive towards each other, accusing one of rape, and setting the other on fire while in a bitter divorce and custody battle. Elliot realized that love can warp into hate, and people are capable of doing terrible things to someone they once loved. He did not want Kathy to ever hate him, so he signed the divorce papers (SVU: "Burned"). However, after Elliot nearly lost his job for allegedly killing a young man, he went over to Kathy's and wanted to return home because he didn't want to lose his family (SVU: "Dependent"). Kathy gave him another chance, starting things slow, having drinks to discuss their future (SVU: "Sin") and to spend more time with their children (Responsible, Pretend). One night, Elliot was on the case of a murdered woman and found out that she had a love affair with a married man who had three children. Later, Elliot and Olivia discovered the dead bodies of the wife and children which rattled Elliot, prompting him to check on his sleeping kids. That night, Elliot and Kathy got intimate (SVU: "Annihilated"). Two months later, Kathy confronted Elliot about him wanting to move back home, but instead, something had changed for Kathy who no longer cared about her ego or pride, she wanted Elliot to return home because she was pregnant with his child. Elliot was shocked at the news of the pregnancy but still chose to move back home (SVU: "Screwed", "Alternate").
Midway through her fourth pregnancy with her fifth child, Kathy was held hostage at knifepoint by Janis Donovan (Cynthia Nixon) who claimed to have a multiple personality disorder. Elliot and Olivia rushed to the Stablers' home, Elliot managing to get Kathy out of the house and restrained Dori (SVU: "Alternate"). Elliot had encountered a few cases that had him worried about the baby's health because Kathy was now over 40 years of age, but decided not to have anything tested because the family was Catholic (SVU: "Savant", "Inconceivable"). However, near the end of the pregnancy, Elliot was seriously injured after sustaining a head injury that caused him to temporarily lose his eyesight. Although the new child on the way was scary enough, the thought of not seeing his child terrified him enough to face his attacker in court (SVU: "Blinded"). Then there was a case about a young child whose paternity turned out to be the result of an affair that was still going on which devastated the father, who asked Elliot how he would feel if the child who he believed was his turned out not to be. Elliot questioned if he was indeed the father of Kathy's baby, as they were separated at the time. Kathy did admit she dated while they were separated (as did Elliot) but the conversation was cut short when Elliot was called back to the case. The next day, Elliot was supposed to be taking Kathy to her doctor's appointment because her car was in the shop, but a new lead in the case had Elliot travel a long distance, so Olivia volunteered to take Kathy to her appointment. On the way, Olivia and Kathy were hit by a drunk driver. Kathy's legs were pinned beneath the dashboard, causing extensive blood loss, and resulting in her water breaking, sending her into labor. Kathy was in and out of consciousness with Olivia now in the backseat to assist the medics while the firefighters managed to get Kathy out of the car and into the ambulance, where she gave birth to a baby boy. Amidst the chaos, Kathy stopped breathing and the EMT had to perform CPR on her. Meanwhile, Elliot was notified of the accident by Fin and was rushed over to the hospital by helicopter. He came rushing into Kathy's hospital room, where he found her awake, holding their baby in her arms. She tearfully informed him that it was a boy. Elliot was extremely relieved that Kathy and the baby were alright, and they shared a moment together. Kathy then told him that he was indeed the father of her baby, which he assured her that he already knew. Kathy decided to name their son after Elliot (SVU: "Paternity"), calling the baby Eli for short (SVU: "Inconceivable").
Elliot and Kathy went through some tough times after the birth of their son when their daughter Kathleen was arrested again for breaking & entering, as well as stealing, before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which she inherited from her grandmother Bernadette Stabler (with whom Kathy had a close relationship) (SVU: "Swing"). Elliot went into his old ways of not contacting Kathy before they separated and did not notify her about his undercover stint. Elliot got shot twice in the arm and chest but continued to see the case through. When he asked the undercover cop that had been arrested to call his family, he informed Elliot that his family left him a long time ago because they no longer could handle him being a cop. Elliot realized that he could have lost Kathy and his children again (she attempted to leave Elliot once more but was stopped by Olivia, who assured her that she would have Elliot call her) and stayed at home in bed with Kathy until Eli started crying. Kathy attempted to get him but Elliot stopped her, assuring her that he would take care of their son, despite being injured from the job (SVU: "Wildlife"). The next year, their son Dickie, who now wanted to be called Richard, got into trouble for trying to help his best friend, Shane Newsome, who had a history of drug problems, whom Elliot did not like. Shane and Dickie wanted to join the Army. Even after Shane was found murdered, Dickie still wanted to join the Army, begging Elliot to sign the consent form because he was underaged. but Elliot refused because he did not want to sign away his son (SVU: "Turmoil"). Some months later, Elliot was rattled by a threat made by a rich psychotic woman who implied she would put a hit on someone he loved, so Elliot took Kathy and the kids to her sister's to keep them safe. Once it was safe, Kathy and the children returned home.(SVU: "Shadow") After 26 years of marriage, Elliot and Kathy were still happy together and continued to be affectionate. In "Gray", Elliot moved to kiss Kathy after finding out that they were afraid to approach one another when they first met. In "Pop", Kathy found Elliot sitting on Eli's bed staring at him, a touching moment that Kathy left them alone for; and in "Delinquent", Elliot and Kathy were asleep in bed when Olivia called with news about trumped-up molestation charges against Elliot had been dropped. While Kathy chatted with Elliot, he held her hand until she snuggled up to him.
Following Elliot's retirement, she and Elliot stayed in New York while he worked security. However, by 2017, he returned to the police force. Kathy and Elliot resided in Rome with their son Eli because of Elliot's new job as a NYPD liaison. In 2021, she and Elliot got word of Benson receiving an award, so they returned to New York to support her. While Elliot was on a phone call, Kathy was caught in a car bombing and left comatose from her wounds. She regained consciousness and expressed happiness to see Benson again, apologizing for making her miss the ceremony, but Benson was not bothered and worried for her. Kathy remarked that it was good seeing Benson and Elliot together again and stated that she couldn't believe that the pair hadn't spoken in a decade or how Benson didn't know he was back on the job. When she started to rest, Elliot was worried, but Kathy assured him she was fine and told Benson on what she could remember. After she experienced cardiac arrest, Kathy was stabilized, but she then suffered a spleen rupture and ultimately died. (SVU: "Return Of The Prodigal Son")
Following Kathy's death, a funeral was held with her husband, her children, and Benson being in attendance. Elliot and Eli took Kathy's death the hardest out of the family, with Eli going into a state of shock and breaking down crying at the end of the funeral while Elliot hugged and comforted him. Elliot also resolved to stay in New York to bring down Kathy's killers and managed to get on the new NYPD Organized Crime task force. (OC: "What Happens in Puglia")
Her death also caused Elliot to suffer from PTSD that was a concern for their children who have done intervention, but Elliot was intent on apprehending the perpetrators responsible. It was eventually revealed that Sacha Linski was the one who activated the bomb to explode in the car that Kathy was in, and that he knowingly did it, which made her the intended target after all. (OC: "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of")
It was revealed that Angela Wheatley was the one who ordered Kathy’s death because her ex-husband made her believe that it was Elliot’s fault that her son Rafiq was dead. Angela told Elliot that she wanted to make him suffer the same way she was. Elliot and the team figured out that Rafiq was killed by his adoptive father, Richard Wheatley for stealing and copying his drug, Purple Magic. (OC: "An Inferior Product", "I Got This Rat")
- Kathy was a devout Catholic.
- Kathy and her son Dickie were slated to return in the Season 21 finale, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the season was abruptly cut short, and the last four episodes of the season were shelved and not filmed. As such, the idea was scrapped.
- It was revealed in Forget It Jake; It's Chinatown that her full first name was Kathleen Marie, although her maiden name remains unknown.
- Kathy is revealed to be a grandmother in The Christmas Episode.
- Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (12 seasons, 32 episodes):
- Season 1: "Payback" • "A Single Life" • "...Or Just Look Like One" • "Hysteria" • "Wanderlust" • "Sophomore Jinx" • "Uncivilized" • "Chat Room" • "Nocturne"
- Season 2: "Wrong Is Right" • "Countdown"
- Season 3: "Popular"
- Season 4: "Risk"
- Season 5: "Home"
- Season 6: "Blood
- Season 8: "Clock" • "Cage" • "Scheherazade" • "Burned" • "Dependent" • "Annihilated" • "Screwed"
- Season 9: "Alternate" • "Blinded" • "Paternity"
- Season 10: "Swing" • "Wildlife"
- Season 11: "Turmoil"
- Season 12: "Gray" • "Pop" • "Delinquent"
- Season 22: "Return Of The Prodigal Son"