Coroner’s inquest held into man’s suicide two years ago
- Kaitlynn Nordal | July 23, 2019
The family of Waylon Starr is finally getting answers into his 2017 suicide this week.
A coroner’s inquest into Starr’s death is being held July 22 to 26, 2019, at the Regina Court of Queen's Bench.
Starr arrived at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre on July 5, 2017, on remand where he was being charged with break and enter and being unlawfully in a dwelling. A few days later, he was put in a secure unit and was allowed out of his cell for one hour each day to make phone calls and exercise. On July 28 that year, Starr was sentenced to 82 days at the Correctional Centre.
August 24, 2017 went per usual with Starr going through his usual activities and calling his mother and said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Brian Bonkowski, an investigator with the Ministry of Corrections, told the jury a minute by minute account of the night's activities during the inquest.
Things took a turn from their usual activities around 6 p.m., as Bonkowski explained Starr asked that his roommate be moved to different cell because of a supposed “altercation” they had. For the rest of the night, Starr was alone in his cell.
Roughly half an hour later, Starr said he had stomach pains because he “may have drank too much milk” and wanted to go to the medical unit. While there, he spoke to a psychiatric nurse. However, apparently he did not tell her he was having mental health issues.
He was not permitted to stay in the medical unit and returned to his cell where, according to Ryan Snyder, counsel for the coroner, the cell door was locked.
The guards on duty did their usual rounds of cell checks where Starr was accounted for but only until 8 p.m. According to Bonkowski, Starr was not checked on for another two and a half hours.
Another inmate who was mopping the unit was the last person to speak to Start when he asked him how he was getting on. This inmate told the investigators that Starr acknowledged his question by smiling and nodding at him.
The inmate who was cleaning noted something was wrong around 10 p.m., when the windows to Starr’s cell were covered with plastic garbage bags. When he saw this, he tried to get Starr’s attention, but there was no response. He said he did not say anything to the guards because he wanted to respect Starr’s privacy but now feels “guilty” about not telling them.
At 10:27 p.m. when the guard came by for cell checks, he knocked on the door to check on Starr, noting the covered windows.
When the door was finally opened, Starr was found unconscious and not breathing, so he called for help and grabbed Starr to pull him up, Bonkowski said. Staff then came in in, cut Starr’s body down and tried to resuscitate him.
Starr was pronounced dead at the scene.
During the Inquest Edward Alport, who did the autopsy, noted he found deep ligature marks around Starr’s neck. He concluded that Starr died of asphyxiation. Alport also said there were no alcohol or illicit drugs found in Waylon’s system.
Through a representative, Starr's mother asked Bonkowski if someone could have choked him and raised the idea of him having “defensive wounds” on his body.
Snyder, although respectful in his wording, said that the case’s evidence shows that Starr was alone behind a locked cell door when he died.
The inquest will continue throughout the week with testimony from staff of Regina Provincial Correctional Centre.