The defendant accused in the fatal beating of a man near a pedestrian bridge behind Petco Park was ordered Friday to stand trial on a murder charge, though a torture count was dismissed.
Dominick Wells, 19, is charged in the beating of Edward Starlard, 56, who was left comatose following the attack. Four juveniles, two girls and two boys, also face unspecified charges in an juvenile court case.
Witnesses said Starlard had been fighting with a group of young people the afternoon of Nov. 18, 2018 before he was thrown down and beaten. When witnesses started yelling at the attackers to stop, they fled east on Imperial Avenue, police said.
Starlard never regained consciousness and was placed on life support. He died Dec. 3 at Scripps Mercy hospital.
A cell phone video recorded by a bystander was shown during Wells’ preliminary hearing. It captures Starlard, Wells and the juveniles exchanging words, none of which can be heard. At some point, both men grab objects – Wells picks up a broomstick, while Starlard lifts a bicycle over his head.
Starland later tosses the bike to the ground, and is then knocked down by Wells and the juveniles, who begin punching and kicking him.
Wells’ attorney, Stewart Dadmun, argued that Starlard was the aggressor. The attorney said Starlard made lewd comments to a 14-year-old girl in Wells’ group, then threatened Wells and the others with violence, including lifting the bicycle into the air with the intention of dropping it onto Wells’ head.
Dadmun argued that Wells only wanted Starlard to leave them alone and that the victim had been harassing them for some time prior to the events shown in the video.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Loeb countered that self-defense did not apply because Wells advanced upon Starlard to knock him to the ground. She noted that after Starlard tosses the bike to the ground, he appears to back up a few steps before being attacked.
A medical examiner testified that Starlard’s death was the result of a heart attack, which could have been caused by stress or trauma from the fight. He also suffered from cardiac disease, the examiner testified, which Dadmun argued made it unclear whether the heart attack could be definitely stated as a result of the altercation.
Superior Court Judge Yvonne Campos said “both adults played a role in this.”
Though she found insufficient evidence to hold Wells on the torture count, Campos said she could not overlook the nature of what ensued after Starlard was taken to the ground.
“Once the victim was down on the ground, the continuing rampage against him is not something I can set aside,” the judge said.
Wells is being held on $1 million bail. He is due to return to court May 23 for arraignment.
– City News Service
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