Jury trial scheduled for Starr

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

BELLAIRE – A jury trial has been scheduled for a former Elk Rapids school administrator accused of falsely reporting a felony.

A three-day trial beginning on Tuesday, Dec. 10, with a back-up date of Wednesday, Dec. 18, has been set for former Elk Rapids Cherryland Middle School Principal Terry Starr, who was formally charged in April with one felony count of falsely reporting a felony, one felony count of intentionally making a false report of child abuse, and slander.

The back-up date of Dec. 18 was scheduled in the event that another case also scheduled for trial on Dec. 10 – for Gaylord resident David Michael Barber, who is charged with manslaughter in the 2018 death of a downstate deer hunter – is not settled beforehand through a plea agreement.  

Presiding over both cases is Circuit Court Judge Thomas G. Power after 13th Circuit Court Judge Kevin Elsenheimer recused himself from the Starr case in late September.

Starr, who was hired as superintendent of Kalkaska Public Schools in July 2018, is accused of anonymously sending two letters in January 2018, when he was still employed by the Elk Rapids school district, to several different Elk Rapids school administrators accusing high school principal Mike Travis of criminal sexual assault of a student in 2013.

Travis was exonerated of that charge by the student in question after an investigation by the Michigan State Police, which led to an MSP investigation regarding who may have written the two letters.

More than 80 handwriting samples submitted by several Elk Rapids administrators, including Starr, were subsequently examined by experts and compared to the handwritten addresses on the envelopes containing the two printed letters.

The two handwriting experts both testified at a preliminary examination held in September, with one saying he did not believe Starr had written the letters, while the other concluded that Starr was most likely the "probable" author. Both experts stated that they would have liked more handwriting samples provided for comparison.

A $2,500 bond for Starr, who is currently on unpaid leave from his position in Kalkaska, has been continued.

A final pretrial conference has been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 18 at 8 a.m.


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