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Detective relates exchange with Clay Starbuck

Chanin Starbuck
Chanin Starbuck

Starbuck children expected to testify today

Often smiling as he interacted with his attorneys, Clay D. Starbuck did not appear worried at the beginning of the trial that could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

Starbuck, 48, listened as prosecution witnesses chronologically explained how investigators began to gather evidence into the killing of Starbuck’s ex-wife, 42-year-old Chanin D. Starbuck. She was discovered dead Dec. 3, 2011.

After finding a partial DNA match to her ex-husband on the victim’s neck and fingernails, investigators charged Clay Starbuck with aggravated first-degree murder and sexually violating human remains. Other DNA collected from the body and the victim’s phone, however, came from two unidentified males.

Spokane County sheriff’s Detective James Dresback testified that he was surprised when Clay Starbuck showed up to the Deer Park substation on Dec. 3, 2011, not knowing that his ex-wife had been killed.

“Deer Park is a small town. To show up and say he didn’t know and nobody would tell him seemed disingenuous,” Dresback said.

“I told him this was about the death of his wife. His knees kind of buckled,” Dresback said. “He looked surprised and shocked.”

The detective said he gave the former pipeline worker, who has no criminal record, several moments to collect himself.

“I asked him, ‘What do you think happened?’ His response … actually made me jump. He said, ‘How do you mean? How should I know?’ It was a complete change in his demeanor from being sad.”

After telling Dresback it was the investigators’ job to find out what happened, the detective asked where they should start looking.

“(Starbuck) said, ‘Just look in her lap top and her phone and that will tell you everything you need to know,’ ” referring to Chanin Starbuck’s online dating activities.

The detective said he believed Starbuck was faking emotion.

Defense attorney Derek Reid asked Dresback how many tears would be necessary to show grief.

“I would expect one,” Dresback replied. “I didn’t see any.”

Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz called several witnesses who said they didn’t see Starbuck walking back and forth to his broken-down car, which he told detectives occupied most of the day when they believe Chanin Starbuck was killed.

One witness said she remembered a car in that vicinity, but a surveillance camera did not record Clay Starbuck walking to or from the car.

Today, Steinmetz is expected to call detectives who will describe the scene of the killing, as well as Starbuck’s children, who are critical of the investigation that resulted in their father being charged.