“Do whatever you can to keep your kids off drugs better yet protect them. From Predator drug dealers and they will appear, it will appear to be friends to be classmates to be neighbours but they are predators and they’ll take your son or daughter soul and make them pay for it by having them steal to pay for the drugs. rob you of your belief and goodness and friendship and trust be on guard protect your children even if you have to throw them in jail if they are on drugs get them in rehab get them to a psychologist get them help. If you don’t the drugs will kill the innocent.”
That was the plea made on Facebook on November 26, 2019 by Robert Hessie of Edmonton, the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta. Without context, the words might not make a lot of sense, but once you know the situation behind Bob’s passionate post, you’ll understand much more clearly than you may even want to.
At 6:43 PM on Saturday, November 23, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and EMS responded to a 911 call reporting a toddler in medical distress at a home in Fort Saskatchewan, which is about 36 kilometres northeast of Edmonton and is considered part of the Edmonton census metropolitan area. The little boy, one-year-old Ares Bishop, was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries. Tragically, he was pronounced dead shortly after he arrived.
Ares celebrated his first birthday on November 16; one week later, he was dead.
Due to the obvious injuries Ares suffered, the RCMP’s Major Crimes Unit took over the investigation. Although the RCMP has refused to provide the media with details of Ares’s death to maintain the integrity of the investigation, it’s clear that whatever happened that evening was obvious enough that the RCMP took Ares’s father, 30-year-old Damien Christopher Starrett of Fort Saskatchewan, into custody and slapped him with a charge of second-degree murder as well as an assault charge for his attack on his five-year-old daughter, who I’ll call D.B. Fortunately, she survived with non-life-threatening injuries; her baby brother was not as lucky.
After a judicial interim release hearing, Damien was released into RCMP custody; he will appear in Fort Saskatchewan Provincial Court on Thursday, November 27.
I’m impressed by the RCMP’s immediate and decisive response to the crime. They certainly didn’t beat around the bush arresting and charging him. Then again, it makes me shudder to realize just how obvious and terrible the injuries that poor baby must have suffered for the police to be able to charge Damien on the spot like that.
“This has been an extremely traumatic incident for the family,” said Inspector Michael McCauley, detachment commander of the Fort Saskatchewan RCMP at a press conference on Monday. “It’s concerning to everyone from the families, the first responders, to the members of the public. This is a close-knit community and it’s a very, very trying time for us. It’s safe to say the community is shaken by an event like this.”
When a reporter asked Inspector McCauley if this was the first time authorities had been come into contact with Damien, he hesitated for an instant before carefully replying, “The suspect was known to the police.”
Indeed, this isn’t Damien’s first go-round with the cops. According to the Edmonton Journal, he was convicted in 2014 of possession of a controlled substance, in July 2012 of assault, and in March 2012 of attempting obstruction of justice with a bribe. CTV News reported Damien’s history includes criminal harassment, assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, uttering threats, and mischief to property under $5,000. The CBC added to the list convictions for refusal to give a breath sample and tampering with a vehicle. Just putting a cherry on top of this criminal sundae, the Global News also mentioned Damien has been convicted of multiple breaches of probation. Sounds like we have a winner here, ladies and gentlemen!
As Bob, Damien’s grandfather, alleged in his response to a comment on his Facebook post on November 25, Damien was high on unspecified drugs when he assaulted his children. It will be very interesting to see what, if any, further information about this comes out as the investigation progresses. I’ll keep a close eye on this case and provide updates as I find them. This one hits particularly close to home for me, quite literally, because I grew up two hours east of Edmonton and lived in the city itself for a couple of years before moving to the US.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up on behalf of the family and lists the baby’s mother, Ashton Bishop, as the beneficiary of the funds raised. “It is with broken hearts we share with you, baby Ares’s sudden passing,” reads the campaign. “As the Bishop family is struggling to grieve a death no one was prepared for, we’re asking for all the help they can receive in this difficult time.” The description goes on to explain that all donated funds will be used to pay for flights and end of life services, in addition to bills and other expenses the family may incur as a result of missing work unexpectedly.
It ends on a bittersweet note: “Fly high sweet baby boy.”
As of November 27, 2019, the campaign has exceeded its $15,000 goal.
The family has also been offered support resources, according to Inspector McCauley, who said, “Several RCMP units are involved in this investigation, and the Zebra Child Protection Centre has provided their expertise.”
The Zebra Centre, the first child advocacy center of its kind in Canada, was created to “bring together a community of professionals under one roof to support the child throughout the entire disclosure, investigative, judicial and healing process.” Their brochure describes their team’s “common goals of supporting children who have suffered abuse and creating a future where every child is heard.”
A vigil and balloon release is scheduled for this evening (Wednesday, November 27) at 7:30 PM (MST) in Fort Saskatchewan’s Carscadden Park. This event, titled Light Up the Park, will honor the lives of both Ares and another young life lost in Fort Saskatchewan on November 23, that of 15-year-old Jesse McPhee, who was, tragically, struck by a vehicle and killed. The boy and his family were nearby neighbors of the Starrett family, and, according to a post Bob made on Facebook, Damien himself witnessed police notifying Jesse’s father of the boy’s death. What a tragic weekend for the Fort Saskatchewan community.
Ken’s Catering, a company based in Fort Saskatchewan, is hosting an event called Dinner for a Cause on December 1. “We will have a buffet dinner, silent auction and a full line up of live entertainment,” reads the event page on Facebook. All proceeds from this event are being donated to Ashton.
I wish the Bishop and Starrett families peace and healing, and I hope they are able to stay strong and united as they comfort each other through this unimaginable tragedy.
Click here for more of my coverage on Ares’s case.
Sources: Edmonton Journal, CTV News, Sherwood Park News, CBC, GoFundMe, Global News, TRCC News, Facebook