Starbuck kids ordered to testify against dad for murder trial

Published On: Apr 09 2013 01:47:57 PM PDT   Updated On: Apr 04 2013 06:13:15 PM PDT
Clay Starbuck
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Five reluctant witnesses in the murder trial of Clay Starbuck, his own children, have been told they will testify against their own dad in the killing of their mom.

Chanin Starbuck was found strangled inside her home in December of 2011 and prosecutors said what the kids know about the events leading up to the killing is critical to their case.

Detectives think Clay Starbuck may have killed his ex-wife so he wouldn't have to pay her $9,000 in back child support. Ironically, his children, who may have information to help the prosecution's case, are standing by their father and up until now have been unwilling to answer questions from prosecutors.

Now with Starbuck's first degree murder trial just a month away, prosecutors are growing concerned they still don't know what his children know about the incident.

The pre-teen Starbuck kids are now being raised by their older adult brothers. Austin Starbuck, 22, is their legal guardian and has told prosecutors interviewing his younger siblings would be a waste of time.

"It's my position the older children have been resistive. We've tried a number of times to get them in. We've tried to accommodate them, in fact we waited now until spring break to get them in," deputy prosecutor Larry Steinmetz said.

The kids were previously scheduled to give their depositions during the Christmas holidays, and now prosecutors say they can't wait any longer, in part because the younger children are some of the last people to see Chanin Starbuck alive. 

Detectives have said she was tricked into taking the children to school while Clay Starbuck slipped inside her home, where he later allegedly murdered her, making the children material witnesses.

"I'm getting quite concerned that we'll set a date again, they won't show up or there will be excuses and we'll be back in the same position," Steinmetz said. "I have a right to a fair trial as well and I'm asking the court to grant that."

That's why in court Thursday Judge Greg Sypolt ordered the Starbuck children to give video depositions later this month, and were all served with subpoenas before they left the court Thursday morning.

Their father's first degree murder trial gets under way May 6 with prosecutors hoping for a life sentence if he's convicted of killing his ex-wife.