Edmonton

Defence calls evidence in murder trial of father who admits killing infant son

Damien Starrett, 33, did not take the stand in his own defence as expected. His lawyer said the Fort Saskatchewan father wasn't feeling well.

Damien Starrett is accused of killing his one-year-old son

Ares Starrett, 1, died in Fort Saskatchewan in November 2019. (Justice for Ares/Facebook)

After a two-day delay requested by the defence, Damien Starrett's lawyer began presenting evidence Friday in his client's second-degree murder trial. 

Starrett, 33, is accused of murdering his one-year-old son Ares in November 2019 and assaulting his daughter who was five at the time. The girl's name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban.

At the beginning of the trial, initially being heard by a jury, defence lawyer Rory Ziv told jurors his client admits to killing his son, but 33, has no memory of the attacks because he was in a sleeping, automaton-like state at the time. 

At the request of the defence and with the consent of the Crown, Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Henderson dismissed the jury earlier this week. 

On Friday morning, Ziv said he had planned for Starrett to be his first witness, but his client wasn't feeling well. Starrett will instead testify next week. 

"The convention in Alberta for decades has been for an accused to testify first if it's his intention to testify and there are good reasons for that," Henderson noted.

Damien Starrett, 33, is charged with the second-degree murder of his son Ares. (Damien Starrett/Facebook)

Ziv called a Fort Saskatchewan Walmart pharmacy manager as his first witness. She confirmed the accused's prescription records which showed numerous prescriptions from numerous doctors for opioids, sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. 

In one case, two different doctors prescribed two different medications on the same day.

Earlier in the week, a friend of Starrett testified she went with him to Tofield to help purchase Percocet, an opioid pain reliever, two days before he killed his son. 

On Friday a defence witness who lived in the same Fort Saskatchewan townhouse complex as Starrett testified he saw the accused on the day of the killing. 

Russell Douglas said the neighbourhood was in shock because that morning a 15-year-old who also lived there had been struck and killed in a motor vehicle collision. 

Douglas said Starrett knocked on his door around noon. 

"He didn't look very good at all," Douglas testified. "Distraught. Pale. Very pale. He had no colour in his face. Very white." 

After Ziv prodded him, Douglas agreed Starrett appeared exhausted. 

The trial continues next week.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.

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