Local News

LC teacher cleared in Deer Park murder

SPOKANE, Wash. - Next week, a Deer Park man will stand trial for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, but Clay Starbuck wasn't the only man investigators and prosecutors considered a suspect in the case. Now, those other men will have to explain to a jury how they were cleared in the case and their testimony could reveal embarrassing details about their love life.

One of those men is John Kenlein, a teacher and coach at Lewis and Clark High School. He admitted to investigators he was heavily involved in the online dating scene back in 2011. No one was supposed to know about that part of his life, but his secret rendezvous were uncovered when one of the women he was dating was murdered in her Deer Park home.

When Chanin Starbuck's body was found, detectives learned the recent divorcee had been involved in online dating. Homicide investigators asked that Starbuck's online suitors come forward; Kenlein was one of them.

John Kenlein vo

"He immediately - using a pseudonym - contacted law enforcement," said Kenlein's attorney Bob Cossey. "When they contacted him and set up a meeting, he -- 100-percent, 110-percent -- cooperated completely."

Kenlein didn't know it, but he had shown up at Chanin Starbuck's home the same day she was strangled to death.

"He had gone to her house and knocked on the door," Cossey said. "He was surprised because she had always been available when they had meetings before and never stood him up. So, he actually even walked around the house to see if something was wrong."

Cossey said when Kenlein learned from investigators that Chanin Starbuck's remains had been sexually violated, he was even more determined to help investigators find her killer.

"Complete cooperation with them [including] interviewing him in my office as many times as they needed to," said Cossey. "Answering every single question, DNA, alibi, giving them the texts and emails that he had, anything from his computers that he had, he provided to law enforcement immediately."

But, in the course of clearing himself, Kenlein had to tell his wife he was having an affair with Chanin. Kenlein was no longer a suspect, but had to begin the long process of repairing the damage to his family and reputation.

"He's come clean with his family, he's come clean with the community," said Cossey. "From everything we've heard about him, he's a good teacher. He does a good job for the community as a teacher. He's still teaching. He's turned his life around and he's more focused on his family and his job. This has had a big impact on his life, being part of the process and being initially looked at as a suspect before he was completely cleared."

Prosecutors now need Kenlein to tell a jury that, not only did he not kill Chanin, but that after Chanin was killed someone kept sending him sexually-charged text messages, pretending to be her. Investigators believe that "ghost writer" was actually Clay Starbuck.