Damien Starrett's sentencing hearing started on Monday, two months after the Fort Saskatchewan man was convicted of manslaughter in the death of his one-year-old son, Ares, and assaulting his daughter, whose name is protected by a publication ban.
Ares was pronounced dead shortly after being rushed to the Fort Saskatchewan Community Hospital on the evening of Nov. 23, 2019. The paramedic working that night told the court most of the baby's head was purple, and there was "considerable swelling" to one eye. Ares also had no pulse and no signs of breathing.
The court heard multiple victim impact statements late Monday morning. Ashton Bishop, the mother of Ares and their daughter, said she has difficulty being around children close to her son’s age and often wonders what Ares would look like now.
“My heart is filled with agony,” Bishop said. “When I’m missing the opportunity to make memories with Ares, it makes my heart drop.”
Bishop fought through tears, explaining she’ll find herself doing “100 tasks” at once to keep her mind busy, but even familiar smells can trigger flashbacks of the night in hospital with Ares. Hearing babies cry causes her to panic, and going through her trauma while assisting her now eight-year-old daughter has been “exhausting”.
“She lost all will to move forward – it took two years for her to feel comfortable sleeping alone at night.”
An emotional mother and grandmother, Sherry Bishop, described her devastation after receiving the call the night Ares died. She spoke about how the attack had affected her family and how tough it had been to leave her job, move out of her condo, and find a place for her, her daughter, and granddaughter to live together.
“Every day, I struggle to know that my daughter and granddaughter will have to live with this for the rest of their lives.”
Starrett was initially charged with second-degree murder and denied criminal responsibility for the death, claiming he was in a sleeping, automaton-like state during the attack. He was ultimately found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The judge pointed out that much of Starrett's evidence was credible and reliable concerning sleep disorders, but other facts "gave rise to serious credibility concerns."
Some inconsistencies included the "evolving nature" of his story about a dream where he was fighting a creature during the attack and a lack of credibility regarding his drug use with respect to the time period when Ares died.
The sentencing hearing will resume on Wednesday after the defence submitted a stay application for the judge to consider.