Two brothers were convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday for their respective roles in the November 2017 shooting death of an Alabama elementary school teacher and mom to two sets of twins.
Federal prosecutors alleged, and jurors were persuaded, that 50-year-old Jason Starr, an accused child molester who served in the U.S. Army, hired his 54-year-old brother from Texas, Darin Starr, to murder Jason’s ex-wife Sara Elizabeth Shubert Starr, 38, on Nov. 27, 2017, right around the Thanksgiving holiday and four months after the couple divorced.
“Ultimately, a judge awarded a significant portion of Jason Starr’s income to his ex-wife. Shortly after the divorce, from September 2017 to November 2017, Jason Starr sent approximately $2,600 to his brother, Darin Starr, 54, a resident of Lakehills, Texas,” prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama said. “Cell phone records for Darin Starr showed that he traveled from Texas to Coffee County just before Thanksgiving in 2017 and, on multiple occasions, was very near the home of his brother’s ex-wife.”
Prosecutors presented evidence that Darin Starr’s phone was powered off for a seven-hour span between midnight and the morning of the shooting.
“Darin Starr shot and killed his brother’s ex-wife in her driveway as she was leaving for work. Darin Starr turned his phone back on around 8:00 a.m. when he was on I-10 heading back to Texas,” prosecutors said.
On Sept. 9, U.S. District Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr., handed the defendants a key motion loss.
The government successfully excluded from evidence Darin Starr’s “alternative perpetrator” theory, which claimed that a U.S. Army helicopter pilot who died by suicide months after Sara Starr’s death — and left a note suicide note saying Jason and Darin Starr should be considered persons of interest — could have been the person actually responsible for the crime.
The judge, unimpressed with the “rank speculation and conjecture” and “glaring omissions” placed before him, ruled that Darin Starr “cites to no real evidence, and certainly none rising to the level of substantial and probative, actually linking or showing a ‘sufficient nexus’” between the proposed alternative perp and the murder.
A footnote from the judge said Darin Starr’s theory “makes little sense,” especially when you consider the relevant evidence that Jason and Sara Starr “were involved in a bitter divorce.”
A week and a half later, the Starr brothers were convicted as charged.
18 U.S. Code § 1958, the murder-for-hire crime the Starr brothers were convicted of committing, says that they “shall be punished by death or life imprisonment, or shall be fined not more than $250,000, or both” because Sara Starr died as result of their plot.
U.S. Attorney Sandra J. Stewart called the crime “unthinkable.”
“I am grateful for the hard work of all the investigating agencies in this case. Their efforts resulted in bringing Jason and Darin Starr to justice,” Stewart said in a statement.
Family said that Sara Starr’s kids “were the loves of her life” and that she “loved them more than anything else.” They also said she always dreamed to be a teacher.
“She excelled in the classroom and was loved by her students,” the obituary said.