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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Starbuck children take the stand

Blake Starbuck holds court records that he says bolster the case for his father’s innocence in the death of his mother, Chanin Starbuck. (Jesse Tinsley)
Blake Starbuck holds court records that he says bolster the case for his father’s innocence in the death of his mother, Chanin Starbuck. (Jesse Tinsley)

Twelve-year-old Marshal Starbuck was called to testify about the death of his mom and what he remembers about the actions of Clay Starbuck on the day Marshal’s life got turned upside down.

Day two of the first-degree murder trial of Clay D. Starbuck also featured photos from the crime scene. The jury for the first time saw how the killer placed 42-year-old Chanin D. Starbuck in a sexually suggestive position.

Based on a brief 911 call on Dec. 1, 2011, investigators believe someone killed the Chanin Starbuck on that day.

Clay Starbuck, who called Crime Check to check on his ex-wife on Dec. 2, told investigators that he texted his ex-wife to take their youngest three children to school after his balky 1988 Toyota Tercel broke down on Dec. 1.

Steinmetz asked 12-year-old Marshal about that day, and he relayed the same story as his father.

He said Chanin Starbuck took them to school that day “because our dad was driving around the golf course to warm it up because it has some problems,” Marshal said. “It always broke down. Honestly, it was a really bad car.”



He said his father came home at about 4 p.m. with oily black hands because “he was working on the Tercel.”

Next, Steinmetz called 19-year-old Blake Starbuck, who said he believes he last saw his mother around his birthday in September.

The last time he spoke to his mother was when she asked him to come over for Thanksgiving, he said.

“There was another conversation where I let her know I wasn’t the happiest with some choices she was making,” said Blake Starbuck, a statement which brought an immediate objection by Steinmetz.

Based on a prosecution request, Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt ruled that he would not allow most of the testimony detailing Channin Starbuck’s online dating history, which the sons earlier told The Spokesman-Review started some 14 years ago.

Before Blake Starbuck left the stand, he earned smiles from the jury when explaining how his younger brothers wear his old clothes.

“He’s wearing my shirt today,” he said. His sister “Sutton put on my underwear over her pants and was running around acting like a boy. They get a lot of joy just running through our stuff.”

But most of the day was taken up by Sheriff’s detective Lyle Johnston, who cycled through more than a hundred photographs of the house where Chanin lived and was killed.

Johnston said investigators found no sign of a struggle other than blood stains on the bed.

Defense attorney Derek Reid then grilled Johnston over several items of evidence, asking if they were ever tested at the crime lab.

Johnston explained that almost every item in the house could help solve the crime.

“This is the beginning of the story. So when we walk in there without having any idea necessarily of what happened, you have to look anywhere for anything that might be evidence,” he said. “Some things may be collected with the intent of testing but they may never get tested.”

Thomas Clouse
Thomas Clouse joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He s currently the deputy editor for the business section. He previously worked as an investigative reporter for the City Desk and covering federal, state and local courts for many years.

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