Trial's focus turns to abuse

Witnesses in Starr case testify both the accused and victim were violent

Posted: Friday, September 24, 2004

SITKA - Acquaintances of Angoon murder suspect Denni Starr described a tempestuous relationship between Starr and her fatally stabbed boyfriend, Richard "Buddy" George Jr., in district court on Thursday.

Starr, now 24, is accused of murdering George and endangering one of their two children when she allegedly stabbed him in the back July 26, 2003, at their home. Lawyers in the trial, transferred from Angoon to Sitka, plan to present final arguments today and the jury may deliberate over the weekend.

Testimony by Starr's sisters and George's Angoon friends differed about who displayed aggressive behavior in the relationship.

On Thursday, Starr's sisters testified that George sometimes hit and choked her. But a prosecution witness described George as mild-mannered and Starr as "very aggressive."

Starr declined to testify in her defense Thursday.

Lawyers said the trial, which started Tuesday, has been a harrowing experience for the Starr and George families, who have been sitting in the courtroom. On Wednesday, for example, George's mother was feeling faint and emergency responders were called to the courtroom. She recovered, said District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen of Juneau.

Deanna Starr, Denni Starr's 29-year-old sister, testified that on one occasion the couple declined to attend a picnic because they both had black eyes.

Deanna Starr said she would occasionally lend her sister makeup to cover a black eye.

When asked by Gullufsen whether Denni Starr acted jealously toward George, Deanna Starr said, "She was jealous of him the way he was jealous of her."

Deanna Starr also claimed that George once told her and a friend that he was so angry with her sister that, "I feel like killing her. ... What should I do?"

Donnelle Starr, 17, a younger sister, said that once she had tried to intervene when George was choking Denni Starr.

George responded by choking her and throwing her into a bathtub, Donnelle Starr said.

But George's friends, Kevin O'Brien and Kevin Mitchell, both Angoon residents, described him as a mild-tempered man who wouldn't even get angry in basketball games. On the other hand, Starr was "very aggressive," O'Brien testified.

Mitchell described one time in his Juneau home when Starr and George visited for dinner, after which they started watching the PG-13-rated Sandra Bullock movie "Miss Congeniality," which contains a bikini pageant. Mitchell said George mostly looked to the side rather than at the television screen. When George glanced at the movie, Starr got up and left the house and he followed, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said it appeared to him as if George was not allowed to watch women in movies.

"He didn't say why (they were) leaving, but he said he was in trouble," Mitchell said.

Under cross-examination Mitchell said George never gave him an explanation.

Starr and George started dating when she was 14 and he was 19, Starr's mother, Delores Starr, testified. Denni Starr gave birth to their first child when she was 16 and lived at home while she completed high school, her mother said.

Starr moved in with George when she graduated, her mother said.

Starr's sisters said the couple loved each other.

Deanna Starr said sometimes they separated for a few hours after a fight but, "they couldn't stay away from each other very long."

Starr faces two counts of second-degree murder and one misdemeanor count of substantial risk of injury to her youngest child. The injury-risk charge comes because George allegedly carried the 17-month-old child when he was stabbed.

The couple's two children are staying primarily with their maternal grandmother.

Today, the prosecution and defense attorneys plan to present additional witnesses. The jury may get the case tomorrow afternoon and will have access to the alleged murder weapon, a kitchen knife with a 9-inch blade.

District Judge Larry Weeks said he will leave it up to the jury to decide whether they will deliberate over the weekend or reconvene on Monday.

•Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at

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