Memorial For Murder Victim Stephen Starr

Stephen A. Starr was murdered at the age of 42 in his home by his 17 year-old daughter's enraged ex-boyfriend.  He was a beloved father, friend, teacher and football coach who influenced and touched many lives in his short time on this Earth.  His heroic actions on the day of his death saved the lives of his wife and daughters.  

This fall at the high school where he coached football and track, there will be a memorial dedication in his honor placed on the football field where he spent so much of his life.  It will be the 20th anniversary of the last year he coached there before his death.  We are hoping to raise enough funds to purchase a statue.  Thank you for considering donating to the memory of a great man, and a hero.

We have a short time to raise these funds but I am confident it can be done!

~Amber Starr Currie
(Avery Iris Ehrens is me - I have an alternate Facebook profile for running my home business.)

***UPDATE July 15, 2014 ***

I have been talking with those closest to this fundraising effort and with the Lion Legacy fund committee leaders (the Lion Legacy is the larger, general organization that began the fundraising efforts to memorialize my Dad along with the other Dryden family members we have lost). It is thanks to their decision to do this that we are even going to have a memorial. Without them, this would not be happening. And in the words of one our generous donators, "This is long overdue." I wholeheartedly agree with that. <3

We have decided to raise our fundraising goal to $10,000. Anything raised beyond the initial $5,000 that does not go directly to the cost of my Dad's memorial will go first into the Lion Legacy fund to help pay for the events and ceremony where the memorial will be dedicated. There will be a 'Walk to Remember' and rededication of 'The Rock,' among other things!

Once that is paid for, any remaining funds will go to the scholarship fund in my Dad's name.

Please join me in supporting the Lion Legacy fund!

For the full story of Coach Stephen A. Starr's death, continue reading:

On December 30, 1994, 19 year-old J.P. Merchant drove his stolen car from his college in Syracuse, NY to his ex-stepfather's home in Cortland, NY.  He broke in to the house and stole a 12-gauge shotgun.  He got back in his car and drove another few miles to neighboring Cortlandville, NY, to the home of his 17 year-old ex-girlfriend, Amber Starr, a straight-A student athlete, ballerina and published poet.

It was a little before 8am.  There was a dusting of snow on the frozen ground.  It was just past sunrise and it was about 30 degrees outside.  J.P. pulled his vehicle up in front of the blue ranch home at the end of the wooded cul-de sac.  He walked slowly and deliberately around the home to a back door on the ground floor.  He aimed his weapon and fired into the middle of the doorknob.  

The family was all asleep, except for 15 year-old Tiffany, who was on her way back down the stairs from the kitchen to her bedroom.  BOOM!  A second shot, fired into the next obstacle in J.P.'s way, another doorknob at the bottom of a few steps in that laundry room entryway from the backyard.

Amber was wearing her headphones and awoke to the deafening sound of gunshots on top of the blaring of "True Blue" by Madonna.  She was at first confused.  And then came the sound of terrified screaming from Tiffany, who had just encountered J.P. in the hallway.  It sounded like an animal being tortured.  And she knew.  She knew she was about to die.

The door to Amber's bedroom flung open and J.P. appeared, dressed head to toe in black, pointing his gun at Amber as she sat up in bed, unable to move or speak.  At the sound of him cocking his gun, she pulled the sheet over her head and braced herself for bullets.  But instead she felt someone tugging her out of the bed, and heard him saying "Get up!"  She started to scream and he said "Shut up!"  She did as she was told, getting out of the bed without making a sound and heading towards the doorway of her bedroom, barrell of the gun pointed in her back.

Just as Amber reached the arch of her bedroom doorway, she saw her Dad, Steve Starr, age 42, running towards her as he reached the top of the stairs, panicked, shouting, "Where is he?  Where is he?"  In less than a second he had his hand on Amber's arm...the same spot where J.P. had grabbed her to drag her out of her bed.  And as he pulled himself into her room, he pulled her out, into the hallway, behind him and out of the sight of J.P.  As Amber landed in the corner her dad had pulled her into, she turned to look for him, frozen, and at that second BOOM!  She heard the agonized quiet scream of her dad as he was shot in the abdomen.  He was blown backwards into her dresser and up off the ground, and all she could see was red.  Her Dad began to fall to the ground, and she reached out for him just as she heard her mother's voice coming from the top of the stairs behind her yelling, "Run!  Run!"

Her mother's words jarred her into action, and she turned and flew down the stairs and out the front door of the home, slamming the door behind her.

As she passed through the doorway she heard another BOOM.  She would later learn this was the second time J.P. shot her dad, this time at point blank range and in the right temple.  According to autopsy and medical examiner reports, he had pulled himself up on his knees and grabbed J.P.'s leg as he attempted to turn and go after Amber.  Steve bought Amber and her mom and little sister enough time to get out of the house and into the neighbor's house without being seen by J.P.

Stephen A. Starr was pronounced dead on the floor of his daughter's bedroom around 8:30 am.  

J.P. drove to a nearby Hess Station, purchased a pack of gum, drove some more to a Homer, NY cemetery where another of his former girlfriends who had committed suicide was buried, crouched down over her grave and pulled the trigger, killing himself.  He was found some time around 10:30 am.

The Starr family spent the remainder of the academic year living out of suitcases in a kind family friend's home.  The twins, Amy and Amber (Amy was staying at a friend's house and was not present for the murder) went on to graduate at the top of their class and go to college.  Tiffany and her mother eventually moved back into the family home, and stayed there until Tiffany graduated from high school, also at the top of her class.  Judy Starr, wife of the late Stephen Starr, never again slept in the bed in the room she had shared with her husband.  Amber never slept in her room again either.

Jonathan Paul 'J.P.' Merchant had a history of domestic violence, harrassment and stalking, which the police were aware of but the Starr family was not.  Athough the family went to the police and made formal reports repeatedly, the order of protection they requested was denied by a sympathetic judge, and the stolen vehicle J.P. was driving around town for two months somehow slipped past the attention of the police, as well as his expired license, expired registration and lack of insurance.  It was not until after the murder that the sherriff's department looked into J.P.'s background and discovered he had been arrested for harrassment of an ex-girlfriend in the past.  

In the three months leading up to the murder, J.P. had stalked and harrassed Amber, her family, and her friends, and had threatened to kill himself and others.  He had followed Amber everywhere she went, showing up wandering the halls of her high school, her job, her cheerleading competition two hours from home; he left increasingly angry notes on the windshield of her car.  He had begged and pleaded with her to just go to lunch with him and talk about their break-up, and then drove her deep into the woods and raped her repeatedly.  He had become physically abusive at the end of their relationship, punching Amber in the face, slamming her into brick walls, holding her down, and pushing her out of a moving vehicle.

Judy Starr had decided to take a leave from her job that year and stay home with her girls that last year they were at home, before leaving for college.  But she was forced to return to work to support her three teenagers.  She acted heroicly and selflessly in caring for her children, before and after her husband's death, and managed to put all three girls through college, build herself a new home, and overcome.  She has never remarried.

In the first few weeks after the crime, many people questioned the role the police reports played and why there was not more done to protect the family in their efforts to save themselves from this eranged kid.  Background check was not done.  Psychiatric consult was not called.  Stolen car driven to the police station was not noticed.  Order of protection family asked for was denied. Promises were made and broken.  The family was urged to take legal action against the county for the Sheriff Department's negligence in handling the case in the weeks before the murder.

The case went to trial at long last in the winter of 2002.  After a week-long trial, the jury awarded the Starr family $1.8 million.  The county immediately appealed the decision.  The NY State Court of Appealed overturned the jury verdict in 2005.  The family never received any money and that was the end of that.

Amy Starr, Amber Starr, and Tiffany Starr all graduated from college and all three also went on to graduate school and earned Master's Degrees.  Amber graduated with a Master's in Information and Library Science from the University at Buffalo with a perfect 4.0.  Amy was the first to earn her graduate degree, also a MLS from UB.  She is now the Director of the Finger Lakes Library System.  Tiffany earned her MSW from Hunter College in NYC.

All three girls married, and Amber has three children.  Tiffany is pregnant with her first child, a boy.

Stephen Starr was an easygoing, kind and funny man with an easy smile and a sharp wit.  Growing up, he was shy but popular, and a gifted student and athlete.  He was also active in school government and theater.  
After high school, Steve went on to earn his teaching degree and play football as the quarterback at Millsersville University in Millersville, PA, not far from where he was born, raised, and is now buried.  Until very recently, nearly 40 years after he attended there, he still held records at his high school for touchdown passes and yards rushing.  He was also a star track runner.  He also played semi-professional football after college.

Steve Starr was known for the silly nicknames he gave to his students, and the learning games he invented and played in his classroom when the students were restless.  He took special interest in at-risk youth and paid many many visits to the homes of his troubled students and athletes.  Every year he helped organize and chaperone the 6th grade camping trip to Camp Barton in Ithaca, NY.  He could be heard at 1 am making his way through the boy's camp on his four-wheeler, making sure none of the boys were sneaking their way over to the girl's camp.  

As a football coach he spent thousands of hours helping his Senior athletes get scholarships to play football in college.  He traveled near and far in his beat-up car to scout games.  He did have one player go on to the NFL, even from his tiny, rural school.

He believed strongly in strength training and single-handedly raised enough money to build and equip a weight room for his players to work out in.  In that weight room stands today a life-size poster of Coach Starr standing proud next to his brand new, purple weight benches.

Mr. Starr spent his summers not barbecuing and swimming in his pool but teaching.  Teaching at-risk students at juvenile detention facilities.  He was very well-liked, had an amazing ability to bring calm into a room with him, and was not the kind of man to worry, be jealous, or take revenge on those who did him wrong. 
Steve enjoyed hunting, golfing, working on cars, and especially playing basketball with his buddies.  He made friends with all kinds of people.  He could not see class or race or IQ.  Steve had a heart of compassion and forgiveness, traits he passed on to his children, and now grandchildren.  He enjoyed the fresh air and comeraderie of deer hunting, and he always said he just didn't have any luck, but his family knew he just could not really kill anything.

There has never been a permanent memorial put in place at the football field where Coach Starr spent so much of his life.  This Fall marks the 20th anniversary of his last year coaching before his death and a Memorial Dedication is planned for the homecoming football game.  Our goal is to raise enough money to purchase a statue or something equally substantial and permanent.

Any additional funds raised through this page will go into a scholarship fund in his name.  If we raise enough money, we will be able to institue an annual scholarship to a graduating senior.  We did this for the first few years after his death but were not able to continue it beyond that point.

Please consider donating.  This great man is a hero, did so much for others in his short life, and deserves to be remembered forever.

 <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  <3  


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Avery Iris Ehrens 
Dryden, NY
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