A Deer Park man accused of strangling his ex-wife and posing her dead body had her death certificate displayed in his home when detectives arrested him this week, detectives say.
Clay Duane Starbuck, 47, is charged with aggravated first-degree murder and sexually violating human remains in the death of Chanin Denice Starbuck, 42. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty. The only other punishment if convicted of aggravated first-degree murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Starbuck, a former Alaska oil worker with no criminal history, appeared in Spokane County Superior Court on Friday afternoon via video from the jail after prosecutors formally charged him Thursday. His bond remains at $1 million.
The Starbucks’ sons, Blake and Austin, attended the hearing but did not speak with journalists. Their father is prohibited from contacting them or their three siblings.
The Starbucks divorced in July but were involved in legal battles over money and contempt of court claims when Chanin Starbuck’s body was found Dec. 3 at her rental home at 509 N. Reiper St. in Deer Park.
Her body appeared sexually violated, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, and was posed in a way to humiliate her. Detectives believe she was killed about 9:17 a.m. Dec. 1, based on a 911 call received from her phone.
The call featured “a short high pitched guttural sound of a female followed by rustling noise consistent with a struggle, and then the phone was disconnected.”
The dispatcher called the phone back but it went to voicemail. The 17-year employee did not call back a second time and did not notify deputies of the call, which violates 911 protocol. The Sheriff’s Office has since ordered a review of 911 hang-up call procedures.
Detectives believe Clay Starbuck lured his ex-wife from her home by telling her his car had broken down and she needed to drive their children to school, then hid in the home until she returned.
Starbuck was arrested Monday after crime lab results linked him to DNA found on his ex-wife’s body.
Starbuck denied murdering her and said his DNA was present at the scene because he used to live in the home. When detectives told him his DNA had been found under her fingernails and on her neck and face, he said nothing, according to court documents.
Detectives searched his home at 1625 E. Second Ave. Monday night, where they found the death certificate on display as well as a backpack containing divorce papers and printed emails between Chanin and another man. Detectives also found a computer hard drive labeled “Chanins desk top comp” and “12.21.11.” Chanin Starbuck’s photo identification also was hanging from a shelf in the closet.
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