A Fort Saskatchewan man will learn his fate early next week.
The sentencing hearing for Damien Starrett, the Fort Saskatchewan man convicted in the death of his one-year-old son, resumed on Wednesday (Sept. 7). In late June, Starrett was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of baby Ares and assaulting his daughter, whose name is protected by a publication ban.
The Crown has proposed a 10-to-12-year sentence for Starrett, arguing the multiple young victims unable to escape his care, the severity of Ares' wounds, and the daughter's ongoing trauma should be considered aggravating factors in the decision.
Mitigating factors going into the sentencing involve a completed Gladue report and Starrett immediately calling for help following the attack.
"Anyone who listens to the 911 call that Mr. Starrett made cannot help but feel that he was genuinely upset," noted the Crown.
Starrett attacked his two children in late November of 2019. One-year-old Ares was rushed to the hospital without a pulse or signs of breathing and was pronounced dead shortly after. Paramedics working that night testified in court that most of the baby's head was purple, and there was "considerable swelling" to one eye.
Days after the attack, Starrett was charged with second-degree murder for Ares' death and assault. He pled not guilty to the charges arguing that he was in a sleeping, automaton-like state during the attack and that he should be found not criminally responsible.
However, the judge didn't buy Starrett's story, pointing 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.
He said it was more likely that Starrett was experiencing severe opioid withdrawal symptoms and lashed out at his children. He was ultimately found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Starrett addressed the court on Wednesday, offering apologies to his children, the children's mother, and her parents.
"Seeing the pain in Ashton's eyes and hearing of [my daughter's] trauma ripped my insides apart," he said. "I'm sorry this is our reality. I wish I could take all your pain and suffering and keep it as my own."
He said his children "mean the world" to him and that coping with his reality has been difficult.
The defence proposed a lesser 4–6-year sentence, arguing Starrett should not become the "poster boy of deterrence" for these kinds of cases. Defence lawyer Rory Ziv asked the court to consider Starrett's mitigating factors and other life stresses at the time.
"He had a drug problem that he began and engaged in, but he also started doing the right thing, and the court found that he was in withdrawal. You also have insomnia, the other life stresses, the back pain," said Ziv.
"Damien is a young man who can still have a good and meaningful life, a jail sentence that is too long could make that difficult."
Starrett was also subject to mistreatment while in prison, according to Ziv. Starrett was the victim of what was referred to as a "fecal attack" in court, where other prisoners poured feces into his cell, and he was made to sit in it for some time.
"The guards allowed the prisoners to pour human feces onto myself and the guards made me sit there for 45 minutes," Ziv read Starrett's statement to the court.
Another factor Ziv is asking the court to consider is the protests that took place outside Starrett's family home while he was out on bail.
The hearing is expected to wrap up next Tuesday morning when the judge hands down his final sentencing decision.