SPOKANE, Wash. -

For the first time Friday, the family of Deer Park murder suspect Clay Starbuck spoke out about his innocence in the killing of his ex-wife Chanin.

A pre-trial hearing for Starbuck got underway Friday morning in Spokane Superior Court. Early next month Starbuck will stand trial for allegedly killing his ex-wife Chanin inside her home in December of 2011.

One person who is vigorously defending Starbuck's innocence is his sister, Kathy Nasholm, and she's not the only person who believes he's not guilty. Starbuck's own children believe he's not guilty of killing their mother.

Up until now KXLY has deliberately steered clear of the Starbuck children. They lost their mom, haven't been able to talk to their dad in jail, yet on Friday, as their dad's pre-trial motions got underway, the kids wanted people to know they believe their dad has been falsely accused of murder.

"They know he did not kill their mother, I know that he did not kill their mother. He loved their mother, he married her twice, has five children with her, he loved her, tried to help her and tried to keep this from happening and it happened anyway," Nasholm said.

Spokane County Sheriff's detectives are expected to tell the jury that Clay owed Chanin Starbuck more than $9,000 in back child support at the time of her death and that perhaps he had grown jealous that his ex-wife wasted little time seeking out new romances.

His family, however, think investigators were looking for easy answers.

"You need to know the state has a circumstantial case which, easy to do in a divorce situation, that he's an innocent man, who has been waiting, we have been waiting, the kids have been waiting, for the prosecution to do their job and find the killer," Nasholm said.

Investigators said they found Clay's DNA on Chanin's neck where she was strangled; his family thinks the much more likely suspects are the men Chanin met online, including a suitor who had texted her with a kinky request just 40 minutes before she was attacked.

Detectives testified during the pre-trial hearing that after Chanin's body was discovered, Clay Starbuck was very quick to paint his wife as being promiscuous. Investigators think it was an attempt to draw attention away from him as a suspect, but under cross examination detectives conceded that was the very type of information they are looking for when trying to solve a homicide.

"It isn't blind devotion. If I thought my brother did this, not for one second would I support him. He did not do this, he is an innocent man. You mark my words," Nasholm said.

Prosecutors have said the older Starbuck boys have been blocking attempts by investigators to interview the children because they are prospective witnesses. Clay's side of the family said the interviews would have happened too close to the anniversary of their mother's death and the Christmas holidays.

The children have been ordered to participate in interviews which are now scheduled for April 18.