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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Judge allows post-conviction DNA testing in Starbuck case

UPDATED: Mon., June 14, 2021

Clay Starbuck, accused in the murder of his ex-wife, is led to court Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Spokane. Starbuck was later found guilty of her murder.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Clay Starbuck, accused in the murder of his ex-wife, is led to court Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in Spokane. Starbuck was later found guilty of her murder. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane County Superior Court Judge will allow new testing of DNA collected during the investigation into the brutal killing of Chanin Starbuck in 2013, after a motion from her ex-husband who was convicted of her murder.

Clay Starbuck’s attorney through the Washington Innocence Project motioned in April to allow for DNA testing of swabs taken from his ex-wife’s body and surrounding items that were not previously tested.

Clay Starbuck was convicted of torturing and killing his ex-wife then violating her remains. Despite losing an appeal in 2015, Starbuck has maintained his innocence and sought other avenues, such as additional DNA testing, to get his conviction overturned.

Starbuck’s attorney argued that limited DNA testing was conducted during the initial investigation and that male DNA that was not Starbuck’s was found at the scene, according to court records. The attorney also argued and presented an expert statement saying that the DNA was not a definitive match for Starbuck but rather Starbuck could not be excluded. New DNA testing technology would allow for more information, the attorney argued. Key items at the scene that the perpetrator would have touched while committing the crime and posing the body were not tested, the attorney wrote.

Prosecutors argued that even if DNA were found that belonged to someone else, it’s speculation that person could be the murderer and would not prove Starbuck’s innocence, according to court documents. Starbuck is “not entitled to any favorable inferences” and that new results would not “explain away” Starbuck’s DNA being found at the scene, the prosecution wrote.

Superior Court Judge Julie McKay granted Starbuck’s motion on Friday. DNA results can take weeks to be returned and further court proceedings will be required to determine next steps based on those results.

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