Alberta Mirror

Friday, December 8, 2023

Sleep expert judges father probably murdered infant child during parasomnia episode


Key takeaways: 

  • Damien Starrett is on trial for second-degree killing in the demise of one-year-old Ares.
  • Ares Starrett, 1, was murdered by his dad Damien Starrett in Fort Saskatchewan in November 2019. 

A psychiatrist specializing in sleep disorders revealed in an Edmonton second-degree killing trial Friday that the charged killer was “most probably” experiencing parasomnia when he murdered his son. 

Dr. Colin Shapiro said parasomnia could have things like sleep terrors, walking, talking, and even driving while a person is asleep. 

“The brain is still sleeping, but you’re working at some level,” Shapiro said. 

Damien Starrett reveals that he hit his five-year-old daughter and fatally wounded his one-year son Ares on Nov. 23, 2019, but he demands he was in a sleeping, automaton-like state. 

A court-ordered publication prohibition saves his daughter’s name. Earlier in the trial, she testified her dad fell asleep on the sofa, and after he struck her brother and then her, she woke him up by patting his armpit. 

“He said sorry. Then he sat on the sofa,” she testified.

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Edmonton second-degree killing trial Friday that the charged killer was “most probably” experiencing parasomnia

Defense lawyer Rory Ziv requested the Toronto-based psychiatrist, qualified as a professional witness, what he would conclude from Starrett going back to sleep after he fatally hit his son and hurt his daughter. 

“I think that tells pretty firmly to it being parasomnia,” Shapiro told the court.

Shapiro said about seven percent of the adult population experiences parasomnia, with the numbers for kids much higher at 20 to 30 percent.

Shapiro also testified that people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) probably suffer from parasomnia. 

The trial has been disclosed that Starrett has been diagnosed with FASD. He attested that he has suffered from sleep issues for most of his life. 

Shapiro agreed with Ziv that Starrett’s several factors could have had a compounding impact that led to parasomnia on the day Ares died.

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