Dateline   |  July 12, 2013

'A Cold December Morning,' Part 8

Chanin's ex-husband, Clay Starbuck is charged with her murder, but the couple's five children believe he is innocent.

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

>> narrator: clay starbuck 's ex-wife chanin. it all seemed to obvious at least to chanin's close friends and family.

>> we knew that he had killed her. just because he had been stalking her and causing her so much grief. we knew what he did to her.

>> narrator: but you might be surprised to hear that the starbuck children weren't buying any of it.

>> so you believe your dad is innocent?

>> yes.

>> there's no way he could possibly have done that.

>>> no.

>> narrator: arguably the only ones with ringside states to chanin and clay's ongoing drama were those kids. even the three youngest rallied to their father's defense.

>> he didn't do it. he's a nice, caring, loving person. i mean why would you kill your ex-wife --

>> that you still love.

>> that you still love and leave all of your five children parentless?

>> narrator: yes, so often what a family looks like depends on who's doing the looking. the kids, all their life said their father was the long suffering one, not their mother. in fact they said their mother chanin was not always what she seemed to be. over the years, they said, she would up and leave, taking them with her to live with other men. more than once, for months at a time. but they said their dad would always take her back.

>> even through all this, he would always say he loved her. i remember just through this last divorce, he would say that, like no matter what, he could forgive her and take her back.

>> narrator: the older starbuck boys said it was patently obvious to them that the case ge against their dad was a frame up, start to finish.

>> there was a couple of times where i actually laughed out loud reading what they had said in there and how ridiculous the story is that they put together of what he did and how he did it.

>> narrator: none of it they said, beginning with the dna evidence detectives found so incriminating. that male starbuck dna , in all likelihood, they say it came from one of them, austin or blake. but it couldn't have come from the youngest, marshall. who learned in the process that he was not clay's biological son. he was conceived during a relationship chanin had after their first divorce. murder, as they say, exposes all kinds of secrets.

>> trace dna , like i go up to you and touch you on the hand. it's that small.

>> but there is starbuck dna . and there are some who say if it wasn't him, it was you guys?

>> we loved there months before this happened. there's hair everywhere. there's sweat.

>> the kids coming over back and forth from our house to her house.

>> narrator: according to the starbuck children, their father was essentially a victim of a kind of marital profiling. a system simp -- a suspect simply because husbands and ex-husbands were always suspects. if not for that bias, detectives would have found their mother's murder. and there's so many other possible suspects. not long after the news reports, there was a man named israel keys. he was arrested for murdering a young coffee barista. he was a serial killer . a man whose family hailed just a few miles from chanin's house. why would you think it was israel keys?

>> because he has killed over ten women. he admitted before in washington. he wasn't arrested until after my dad. so he wouldn't have been looked at until then. their mother had been keeping a dangerous secret, they said, a secret life . one austin said he figured out when he was just 8.

>> she lived a couple of different lifestyles. she lived her church lifestyle, her home lifestyle and her online dating lifestyle.

>> narrator: they said their mom who was a prim and proper church lady , led a secret life , secret from even her closest friends and family, but impossible to hide from the kids.

>> she wouldn't meet some guy and be with them three, four, five months, a year at a time. she was with them for just a short visit and on to the next one.

>> narrator: was it true? sitting in jail awaiting trial, clay told his public defenders derek reid and jill gannon maco the same thing that he said to sheriff's detectives. look at her phone, look at her computer.

>> the things that we were able to find and confirm on the lap top were not normal dating relationships. it was sexual relationships and most of those relationships can be confirmed that they were only sexual in nature.

>> and explicit it so?

>> explicitably so. #.

>> yes.

>> these were men she had not met in person, until she made herself completely vulnerable to them, these strangers.

>> several men, i don't think we can even give a number of the amount of at least e-mail addresses.

>> two, three, ten, 15?

>> ten would be a minimum, i would say.

>> we tried to keep it as close to the incident as possible. and in november of 2011 --

>> the months leading up to her murder?

>> we can verify at least ten men that she was mcommunicating with electronically, most of which she had met one-on-one. and we can verify that.

>> every one of them a possible suspect. at least that's when clay's public defender thought. investigators had run down leads from chanin's phone. those crack pot detectives didn't follow up on any leads from her lap top .

>> they swabbed it. they in fact, at some point, somebody suspected something and i'm not quite sure why they didn't follow up.

>> but isn't this all just a smoke scream? because the evidence is pretty clear that clay starbuck 's alibi doesn't hold up and the alibis of those other people do.

>> the alibis of the ones they looked into.

>> narrator: so armed with the evidence found on that computer alone, defense attorneys were confident they would instill in the jury at the very least reasonable doubt. and as the day of the trial approached, the starbuck children were giddy, with the anticipation that soon dad would be coming home to stay.

>> i know he didn't do it. we need to fight for our dad's innocence, get him out so we can go back and hit it on the head again and find out who did it and solve it.