Jury selection begins next week for Spokane's most diabolical murder trial in more than a decade as Clay Starbuck stands accused of killing his ex-wife and trying to pin the crime on one of her new boyfriends.
Deputies have said as soon as Chanin Starbuck's body was discovered, Clay Starbuck told them his ex-wife was very promiscuous and offered perhaps one of Chanin's online lovers must have killed her. However, the couple's children say there's a viable explanation for their father's actions and they believe detectives have arrested the wrong man.
During his pre-trial motions, the five Starbuck children waited in the hallway outside the courtroom, hoping for a glimpse of their father being led to and from court. It's one of the few chances they have to see him since his arrest.
"They will not let us in the courtroom, we are labeled as witnesses with no contact with our dad which makes it very hard to defend him," Blake Starbuck said.
Blake Starbuck, 19, had already moved out of his mother's home when her body was found inside her locked Deer Park residence back in December of 2011.
It didn't take very long though, for the older Starbuck children to rule out a "natural death" or suicide. They'd known for a long time their mother was seeing a lot of men. Even neighbors had noticed the large number of Chanin's acquaintances.
"She would leave early in the morning, two in the morning, come back five, six and my neighbor was worried about the safety of my three younger siblings," Blake said.
After taking a look at Chanin's computer, homicide detectives realized Chanin was involved in online dating and those prospective boyfriends quickly became persons of interest.
"And they're calling us to tell us what they know about her last 30 days or to give us insight into what they know about her previous relationships with other people," Lt. Barbieri said.
One of the first suitors to step forward was Lewis and Clark High teacher John Kenlein, who went to Chanin's home several times the same day she was killed
"Knocked on the door, she didn't come to the door, and he was surprised because she had always been available when they had meetings before and never stood him up and so he actually even walked around the house to find out if something was wrong," Kenlein's attorney Rob Cossey said.
When Kenlein learned from investigators what had happened to Chanin after she was already dead, he was even more determined to help sheriff's deputies identify her killer.
"Answering every single question, DNA, alibi, giving him the texts and e-mails that he had any thing from his computers that he had, he provided to law enforcement immediately," Cossey said.
Detectives say a sample of Kenlein's DNA would later eliminate him as a suspect, but the Starbuck children think investigators were working from an incomplete list of possible killers.
"There are a lot of suspects that I think the prosecution has not looked at," Blake said.
"It's just her history, she was addicted to seeing other men," Austin Starbuck added.
At 22, Austin Starbuck is the oldest of the Starbuck children and now the legal guardian of the younger children.
"I believe they haven't investigated people as thoroughly as we all hoped they would," Austin added.
Detectives did investigate other people but found Clay Starbuck's actions suspicious from day one, including telling deputies at the crime scene about his ex-wife's online encounters.
"Yeah he was telling them the truth and providing all the information that he thought would be helpful in the investigation, and they saw that as him trying to push them in a different direction, but it was just him telling the truth," Blake said.
During his murder trial, detectives may also tell the jury that Clay owed his ex-wife $9,000 in back child support when Chanin was murdered.
"We're aware of how much was supposed to be paid out. So yes we look at that as a possible motive," Sergeant Bill Beeman with the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said.
"It just does not make sense that he would leave us all parent-less over $9,000 when he made plenty of money," Blake said.
While the Starbuck children believe their dad's innocence, Chanin's mother and brother also suspected Clay from the very beginning.