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Two brothers convicted in murder-for-hire plot in killing of elementary school teacher over child support and alimony

By Marlon Sorto, CNN

(CNN) — An Alabama man and the brother he hired to kill his ex-wife in 2017 to avoid paying her child support and alimony were convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday, according to a news release from the US Department of Justice.

Jason Starr, 50, and his brother, Darin Starr, 54, plotted to kill Jason´s ex-wife, Sara Starr, after a judge ordered Jason to pay her a “significant portion” of his income after their divorce, according to prosecutors. Sara Starr was shot to death outside her home in 2017.

The jury found them guilty of racketeering murder, and prosecutors say they will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

“There is no such thing as a perfect crime,” Assistant US Attorney Joshua Wendell told CNN affiliate WTVY after the verdict. “You will be caught. You will be prosecuted.”

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Jason, whose net income was about $6,700 a month, had to pay $2,550 a month in child support and alimony to Sara, with whom he had four children, WTVY reported, citing court records.

Over approximately two months, starting in September 2017, Jason Starr sent about $2,600 to his brother Darin, who lived in Texas. During the trial, the jury determined that the money “was payment for the murder of his ex-wife,” according to the DOJ news release.

On Thursday, Darin Starr’s lawyers, J. Carlton Taylor and Aimee Cobb Smith, told CNN via email that “we feel the verdict in this case was the result of emotion and speculation, not evidence.”

“Darin Starr intends to pursue all remedies available under the law to have his conviction overturned,” his lawyers added.

CNN has reached out to Jason Starr’s lawyers for comments but has not yet heard back.

Sara Starr was a 38-year-old elementary school teacher and mother of two sets of twins at the time of her killing, WTVY reported. Court records show that she divorced Jason in July 2017 and that they shared their children’s custody.

Cell phone records showed that Darin Starr traveled from Texas to Coffee County in Alabama just before Thanksgiving in 2017, and was very near the home of his brother’s ex-wife on multiple occasions, according to the DOJ news release.

“Around midnight on November 27, 2017, Darin Starr’s phone was turned off. Approximately seven hours later, Darin Starr shot and killed his brother’s ex-wife in her driveway as she was leaving for work,” the release added. “Darin Starr turned his phone back on around 8:00 a.m. when he was on I-10 heading back to Texas.”

During the trial, their defense lawyers told jurors that investigators failed to find a murder weapon or an eyewitness to the crime, WTVY reported.

According to the DOJ, the sentencing hearing for both men will be held in the coming months.

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