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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Man faces murder charge

Ex-wife was found slain in December

Chanin Starbuck
Chanin Starbuck

The ex-husband of a woman found strangled in her Deer Park home has been arrested in connection with her death.

Clay Duane Starbuck was booked into jail Monday and is scheduled to appear in court today on charges of first-degree murder and first-degree burglary in the killing of Chanin Denice Starbuck, 42, who was found dead Dec. 3 at 509 N. Reiper St. Deputies arrested him without incident during a traffic stop Monday morning in Deer Park.

The Starbucks, who have five children between the ages of 10 and 21, were in the midst of a contentious court battle when Chanin was killed.

Detectives obtained DNA samples from Clay Starbuck and other people who knew Chanin Starbuck to compare with evidence found at the homicide scene. The state crime lab recently notified them of the results, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

“A lot of people wanted this to happen a lot faster,” Chamberlin said. “But we can’t arrest people on gut feelings. We need something to get us probable cause.”

Court documents detail contempt of court claims and other ongoing disputes over money between the couple.

In a letter in April 2011, Clay Starbuck said he and Chanin were trying to work through problems with the children together.

“Chanin remains jealous of the kids and my relationship,” Starbuck wrote.

In an Oct. 14 letter, Chanin Starbuck unsuccessfully urged a judge to jail her ex-husband on contempt of court charges for failing to pay child support. Clay Starbuck disputed her claims and said he’d paid her more than $43,000 and continued to pay her rent and utilities. But court documents show he owed his ex-wife about $9,000.

The couple had divorced in March 2000 in Benton County but reconciled within four months and remarried in Alaska in 2006, where Clay Starbuck worked on oil pipelines. Chanin Starbuck had been a stay-at-home mom but enrolled in a dental assistance program after filing for divorce in July 2010.

Family from out of town contacted police Dec. 2 to request a welfare check on Chanin Starbuck, but deputies responded to the home and found no signs of a forced entry or other suspicious circumstances. They left feeling they had no justification to enter the home without a warrant. They returned the next day after a friend said he hadn’t heard from Chanin Starbuck in several days and that it was “very out of character for her.”

Deputies found Starbuck dead on a bed in the master bedroom.

Clay Starbuck told deputies that his ex-wife sent him a text message on Dec. 1 about 3:30 p.m. asking him to pick up their children from school. Starbuck told deputies “that Chanin had been online dating and been on numerous dates,” according to a search warrant used to obtain information from computers in the Reiper Street home.

That warrant was filed Dec. 7. Detectives also sought information from a video camera that Chanin had set up in her kitchen four to five months ago because she thought Clay was entering the home and stealing jewelry and firearms that belonged to him, according to the search warrant.

Detectives sealed other search warrants as the investigation continued and evidence continued to point toward the victim’s ex-husband.

In a telephone call with The Spokesman-Review just after Chanin’s body was discovered, Starbuck called the case “just terrible” and declined further comment.

Chamberlin said the investigation is ongoing. Detectives searched Clay Starbuck’s home in Deer Park Monday night, and more people are expected to be interviewed, Chamberlin said.

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