Ex-teacher gets 30 years for child porn

December 03, 2004|TODD KLEFFMAN

LEXINGTON - A U.S. District Court judge sentenced former Boyle County teacher Mark Starr to 30 years in prison on federal child pornography charges Thursday, following tearful pleas from the parents of the young victims that he be shown no mercy.

"He has used his teaching profession and his Christianity as a front for what he truly is - a predator," said one of Starr's relatives, whose two daughters were among the four female juveniles Starr photographed as they were sleeping. "I ask you, Judge (Jennifer) Coffman, to show no mercy, no leniency, no compassion for this defendant."

Coffman's 30-year sentence was five months shy of the maximum she could impose under federal guidelines. Coffman indicated she might have imposed an even more severe sentence if there was enough evidence to prove allegations that Starr drugged the children before photographing them.

"I reviewed these pictures and I had a question whether the children were drugged or sedated. I found it hard to believe these actions could have occurred to these children if they were just asleep, without them waking up," Coffman said.


"That's a long sentence, but what you have is a very serious situation that needs to be addressed, and I don't know if that sentence is long enough," the judge said later. "Because of the age of these victims and the way you took advantage of them, (the sentence) is to show society what is wrong with this."

Starr, 33, pleaded guilty in September to 10 counts of child pornography. He admitted he took pictures of the genitals of four girls between the ages of 6 and 13 while they were sleeping. Three of the girls were children of relatives and were spending the weekend at his house in Danville. Starr also admitted to downloading to his computer several videos and images of young girls engaging in sexual acts with adults.

Investigation stemmed from two girls' complaint

Starr taught technology and career explorations at Boyle County Middle School for four years before being fired in March after two girls complained that he had videotaped them while they were changing clothes at the school.

That incident led to a six-month investigation by Kentucky State Police that eventually recovered the child pornography from Starr's computers. He also served as a youth minister at Alum Springs First Church of God near Junction City.

Starr wiped tears from his eyes as he listened to statements from two family members, both police officers in Indiana, and other relatives about how he had betrayed their trust, inflicted serious harm on their children and was not remorseful for his actions.

"Everyone's life has been changed by his evil doings," said one relative. "I don't believe he is just sick, he is evil."

After victims' statements, Coffman offered Starr a chance to speak. He denied drugging the girls and said he took "pictures that were sexual in nature but there was no time that I molested the children."

"I am very aware of the pain I caused to people I love. I fully understand why they cannot forgive me," Starr said. "I know God can forgive anything, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forgive myself. My life has been spent in service to Him. I grew up with a great love for people. I hate that I allowed it to be perverted and twisted into something like this."

Boyle Middle students praised

One of Starr's relatives praised the two Boyle Middle students who initially turned Starr in.

"I'm thankful for those brave young girls who turned in that tape because without them, there would have been no investigation," she said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wolander also praised KSP Detective Chris Crockett and the state forensics lab for working diligently to solve the high-tech case.

"The evidence had been destroyed. He had deleted it from his computer, and they had to recover it from his hard drive," said Wolander, who prosecuted.

"It was an old gumshoe kind of case. Chris knew there was something there, and he just wouldn't let it go."

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