Even with a predetermined term of life in prison, the sentencing of convicted killer Clay D. Starbuck was emotional Thursday as family and friends tearfully described the devastation of two broken families and the Starbuck children vowed to keep pressure on investigators to search for what they called their mother’s real killer.
Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt’s sentence was determined on June 4 when the jury convicted Starbuck of aggravated first-degree murder and sexually violating human remains in connection with the December 2011 torture slaying of 42-year-old Chanin Starbuck.
“I will say, in the court’s experience, this is one of the most aggravated instances of murder that the court can recall,” Sypolt said. “It does appear, and I would agree, that this conduct by the defendant has left a wide devastation to many people.”
Sypolt ordered that Starbuck have no contact with his three youngest children, who are all minors, until the Department of Corrections conducts a mental evaluation on the convicted killer.
Defense attorney Derek Reid said he could find no legal authority for the judge to deny contact with the children, all of whom testified that they love their father and believe he is innocent.
“If they want to have contact with their father, they should,” Reid said. “Mr. Starbuck and his defense counsel stand here maintaining his innocence, waiting for an appeal and looking forward to the opportunity to present all of the information to a jury.”
Chanin Starbuck’s family and friends described a beautiful, bright, caring mother who made her life about her children.
Her mother, Melanie Bourcier, said her daughter confided in her many times that she feared Clay Starbuck and that if anything happened to her to have him investigated.
Bourcier directed her comments at her ex-son-in-law: “Clay Duane Starbuck, you are a cowardly murdering sociopath, child abuser, terrorist, pedophile, burglary thief, raper and a spineless creature,” she said. “I hate you with every cell in my body for what you did to my precious daughter.”
Starbuck, 48, said he prepared a statement to read but said his arguments wouldn’t “really make sense” because state law already called for a term of prison without the possibility of parole. Instead, he said, Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz “surprised” the defense by seeking an order barring contact with his three youngest children.
“For weeks he has been stating that he would not ask for any … no-contact order,” Starbuck said. “Now in the eleventh hour, people are making a run to try to stop that.”
The children testified in support of the former Alaska pipeline worker. Blake Starbuck, 19, told Sypolt that he loves and respects his father.
“I feel terrible that he is going through this because the people in charge of the investigation got lazy and stopped short,” he said. “I loved my mother. What happened to her was terrible. But I’m in fear that the real killer is still free.”
As the Starbuck children left the courtroom, Chanin Starbuck’s sister, Amy Showers, yelled out: “Love you guys.”
The children looked back, paused and kept walking.
During her long speech, Bourcier asked Starbuck to “man up and tell the names of others who helped you in murdering my daughter, Chanin. My daughter deserves at least that much from you,” she said.
The same DNA evidence that implicated Clay Starbuck also included evidence of at least two unidentified males.
Asked if investigators will continue to try to identify those men, lead sheriff’s Detective Mike Ricketts said: “The investigation is closed. We got the right guy.”
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