Dateline   |  July 12, 2013

'A Cold December Morning,' Part 7

Chanin's mother and siblings say they have no doubt who killed Chanin. And detectives take a closer look at the man they say seemed a little too eager to help.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> narrator: then detectives found that someone else in chanin's life isn't who he seems to be either.

>> narrator: as detectives win knowed through the list of their potential suspects in the murder of chanin starbuck , they at least began to make that kind of progress that comes from dead ends.

>> i was able to eliminate tom walker . i was able to eliminate john kenline.

>> narrator: so one name they hadn't quite been able to cross off their list seemed more and more important.

>> clay starbuck was never eliminated as the suspect.

>> narrator: clay starbuck , the ex-husband. and by now, they had something else to consider. a slew of unflattering tidbits from chanin's family.

>> it was just constantly trying to belittle her and make her feel like she was inan mant.

>> he was always bugging her, i guess if you will, wondering what she was -- what are you doing? or can you do this? or trying to keep her --

>> tabs.

>> narrator: they said clay wouldn't leave her alone, some kind of control freak . they didn't know him, but chanin came in from school very upset one day. clay had given her a gift, a sex toy .

>> it was hanging on her doorknob. with a note.

>> saying, enjoy, clay.

>> he was very jealous, he was very controlling and he was losing control.

>> narrator: still, said summer that she thought it was some kind of joke when she said that clay was trying to hurt her.

>> i said quit being a drama queen , i said that's ridiculous. that only happens in the movies or on "date line." i said you're just so full of it.

>> narrator: but according to summer, chanin was scared. chanin changed the locks in her house, didn't even give the kids a key. claiming that clay would find a way to steal a copy.

>> she was very vocal about her fear that he would kill her.

>> narrator: hardly surprising, that would tend to put a sinister spin on everything that detectives had learned about him so far. detectives thought something was off. the moment clay arrived at the station and he told clay the news. he said oh, my gosh, what happened to my wife. i said, well, she's dead. and his knees buckled and everything, and he became very histrionic, crying and wailing. and that was okay, for a while. but it became ridiculous.

>> ridiculous?

>> it became ridiculous.

>> narrator: even more ridiculous, more suspicious, is when clay told he was free to go, didn't.

>> then i couldn't get rid of him. he would not leave me alone .

>> he kept wanting to talk?

>> he kept telling me, it was the same thing over and over again. look on her phone, look on her computer, that will tell you everything you need to know .

>> it's suspicious to you, but it's not really evidence?

>> it's circumstantial, but it's suspicious to me.

>> which meant of course that right then on day one, clay needed to be checked out, but good. and they began with his alibi for that december morning. remember, clay's day started with car trouble and his text to chanin asking her to take the kids to school for him. he said he spent much of december 1, walking between his home and the spot the car broke down, about a mile away.

>> he told me that he had to go back and forth to his residence four times that day to work on his car, to get tools, to eat, to take a nap.

>> but detectives couldn't find anyone along that route who remembered seeing clay. and another odd thing, his cell phone was off for several hours, no pings to trace. but the area where clay said that he was, a little shoe leather produced something, a home surveillance camera, pointed in the very direction he remember eed clay telling them they walked. no sign of clay, as near as they can tell.

>> there's no sign of clay passing by anywhere that day.

>> what did you think.

>> that he was lying.

>> one statement that looked like a lie, an alleged cell phone . and -- detectives didn't have enough for an arrest, let alone a murder charge. they needed something more, something to tie clay directly to the crime scene. and enter the dna .

>> i believe it was january 24th , 2012 when i obtained the initial dna report.

>> they had submitted several samples from chanin's body for dna testing . thought the most important thing would be from her neck, where she was strangled. and her fingernails as she fought off her attacker. some of the samples came back unknown male, which didn't match any of the suspects. but some other of the dna material could be narrowed down, to a very small pool of candidates. to a starbuck male.

>> clay starbuck , or austin starbuck , or blake starbuck .

>> narrator: there was no getting around it. dna didn't lie after all. a starbuck male killed chanin. was it possible that one of chanin's own sons killed her? not a chance.

>> we obtained records that indicated they were working at school. we eliminated them as suspects.

>> narrator: only one man left standing now. but not for long. on february 6 , 2012 , four months after they found the body of chanin starbuck , they arrested clay and charged him with murder. it was the moment chanin's siblings and mother had been waiting for.

>> we felt as though clay should have been arrested right off the bat.

>> i knew he was the one that murdered her.

>> it was of course a victory for the detectives too. but it came at a terrible price.

>> i didn't want it to be clay starbuck . i didn't want to take those children's father from them.

>> narrator: chanin and clay's five children, still in shock over their mother's death, now had another blow to absorb. chanin's brother was especially worried about the three youngest in the family.

>> that means they have no guardian then. so we all decided it would be best that we try to get custody of the kids and get them out of that situation.

>> but the starbuck children weren't going anywhere. austin just 21, filed to be the guardian of his younger siblings so they could all stay together and fight together, for their dad.

>> and it's hard to grieve, you know, over our mother when we're fighting for our dad's innocence.

>> their dad was innocent, and if that meant soiling their mother's name to do it