The Fort Saskatchewan father who admits to killing his infant son now says he thought he was being attacked by a “shadow creature” while he was in a dream-like state.
Damien Starrett, 33, is charged with second-degree murder in the death his one-year-old son Ares. Starrett’s lawyer wants Court of Queen’s Bench Justice John Henderson to find Starrett not criminally responsible.
Starrett testified in his own defence for two and a half days this week.
On Thursday morning, he told Crown prosecutor Sandra Christensen-Moore that one week before Ares died, he had a bizarre experience.
Starrett went upstairs to his bedroom to retrieve a laptop and fell asleep on the bed, he testified. He dreamed he was smoking a cigarette while he was walking through a city he’d never seen before, he said.
Starrett said when he woke up, he was lying down on the bed with a lit cigarette in his hand. He quickly put the cigarette out and tried to get rid of the smell because he was adamantly against smoking inside the house, he said.
“I didn’t tell anybody because I was so confused,” Starrett said.
Starrett said the night before he killed his son, he bought 12 Percocet tablets from a friend. He took four right away, then another two before his wife returned home from work around 9 p.m., he said.
He had problems falling asleep that night and remembered last checking the time on his phone at 3:30 a.m., he testified.
The next morning was Saturday and Starrett was the last one to get up. He told the court his back pain was excruciating, so he took two more Percocets.
He testified that it gave him some relief, but he popped another two tablets around noon, then another two at 2 p.m.
The Crown noted Starrett had taken a dozen Percocets in less than 24 hours. He testified he did not have breakfast or lunch the day his son died.
‘The first thought is to protect your children’
Starrett previously told the court that he was in the living room with his five-year-old daughter and Ares for most of the day while his wife worked a split shift at a Fort Saskatchewan restaurant.
He said he remembered lying on the couch, that it went from light to dark and the next thing he knew he was sitting up staring at a stairwell.
During cross-examination, Starrett added more detail. He said that during his dream-like state, he felt like he was being overtaken by violence and force by a creature that was as black as a viper.
“It was a shadow creature with no skin, no eyes,” Starrett said. “It kept throwing me in a circle. All I can remember is spinning.”
Starrett said that in his altered state, he felt like he was getting thrown around the living room.
“I was trying to protect my children from whatever it was,” Starrett said. “Imagine being woken up by a creature.
“The first thought is to protect your children.”
Starrett now admits he did the exact opposite of protecting his children. He spotted his daughter curled up on another couch, looking scared of him. She told him he had hurt Ares.
The baby was on the floor bleeding and unconscious. Starrett said the baby’s head was “dented.”
On Thursday afternoon, defence lawyer Rory Ziv called Starrett’s ex-girlfriend to testify about the accused’s sleeping patterns.
Brittany Westcott developed a relationship with Starrett after he was released on bail in April 2020.
“In the heart of hearts I knew the situation wasn’t what it seemed,” Westcott testified. “I started hanging out there every day. I stayed there every night. It just kind of blossomed into a relationship from there.”
Westcott told the court that Starrett had night terrors that involved kicking, punching and elbowing her in bed while he was asleep.
“He ended up putting pillows in between us so he wouldn’t hurt me in his sleep,” she said.
She told the court that one night, Starrett began to twitch before he sat up in bed and ran from the room. She followed him and he mentioned something about a man with a shotgun.
Westcott testified that when she touched him on the arm to bring him back to the present, he had no idea why he was in the other end of the house.
Their relationship ended in September 2020. Westcott said they remain good friends.
The defence will call a sleep expert to testify on Friday.
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