Gary Lee Starr

On February 21, 1988, Gary Lee Starr was arrested in the stabbing death of his 20-year old daughter, Wanda Lynn Starr. She had been killed the previous day. Wanda Starr’s body was discovered by her boyfriend, James Fichter, in the apartment they shared at the Clinton Apartments, 283 Moon Clinton Rd., Moon Township, which Gary Lee Starr also lived in and managed.

283 Moon Clinton Rd.

Police investigation revealed that Starr and his daughter had been involved in an incestuous relationship since she was 14. That relationship had produced a two-year old son.

Pittsburgh Press, February 20, 1988

The incident culminating in Wanda’s murder began when Starr accused Wanda of stealing rent from the apartment business. She responded by threatening to tell his wife, Loretta Starr, of their relationship. Starr responded that he would tell her boyfriend. She then started to seduce him. Enraged at her efforts to manipulate him, which had become a more common occurrence, he stabbed her 35 times.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 4, 1988

At trial, Starr claimed that he “blacked out” just before the killing. After a two-day trial, he was convicted of first-degree murder on August 22, 1988, and sentenced to death on September 27.

On appeal, on August 29, 1995, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court reversed Starr’s conviction and ordered a new trial due to the trial court’s wrongful refusal to allow Starr to act as his own counsel (Commonwealth v. Starr, 541 Pa. 564). That right must be granted, the court ruled, when the defendant is competent to assert it, independent of the court’s assessment of the defendant’s technical ability and best interests.

On January 12, 1996, Starr was resentenced to life imprisonment after he agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder.

This was a familiar dynamic for Starr.

On June 16, 1972, he was convicted in the April 7, 1972, shotgun death of his first wife and Wanda’s mother, Lynda Mary Burgess Starr, in Rochester, Beaver County, and sentenced to life in prison. Starr claimed that his wife had cheated on him.

Pittsburgh Press, June 17, 1972

On appeal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the trial court erred in not permitting Starr to withdraw his guilty plea (Commonwealth v. Starr, 450 Pa. 485, 1973). On retrial, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served 8 1/2 years in prison before being paroled.

Now 67 years old, Gary Lee Starr remains in prison.

Gary Lee Starr

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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