Sleep expert testifies Fort Saskatchewan father was likely not awake when he killed his son

Click to play video: 'Sleep expert takes the stand in Starrett murder trial' Sleep expert takes the stand in Starrett murder trial
A star witness for the defense, Dr. Colin Shapiro, told court it's his opinion the Fort Saskatchewan father was likely asleep when he killed his baby boy. Sarah Ryan has the details from court. – Apr 1, 2022

On Friday, the defence in the trial for Damien Starrett had Dr. Colin Shapiro testify as a sleep expert.

The psychiatrist who specializes in sleep research has testified in numerous court cases where sleep has been used as a defense.

He conducted a series of sleep-related tests on Starrett in December 2021, more than two years after the Fort Saskatchewan father was charged with second-degree murder in the death of baby Ares Starrett.

Read more: Fort Saskatchewan father on trial for killing infant son, assaulting young daughter

As a result of those tests, and discussions with the accused, Shapiro told court in Edmonton on Friday it was his opinion that Starrett was suffering from parasomnia when he killed his son back in November 2019.

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Parasomnia is a disorder in which people do things while asleep that they’re unaware of, such as sleepwalking or having night terrors.

“The balance points fairly strongly to a parasomnia behaviour,” Shapiro said.

In this case, the defense argues Starrett was asleep when he attacked his children, fatally injuring Ares, and punching his daughter three times in the head.

Read more: Victim’s mother takes stand in Fort Saskatchewan murder trial

Earlier this week, court also heard 33-year-old Starrett has a history of substance abuse, including cocaine, alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids.

While on the stand, Starrett told court he attempted to take his own life in July 2019 as a result of his life-long troubles with sleep.

Next week, the defence intends to call a few more doctors to the stand before concluding its case — though it’s unlikely a verdict will be handed down anytime soon.

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