The teenager who was 16 when prosecutors say he killed his younger brother has pleaded guilty to murder.
Nicholas Starling, who was accused of stabbing and beating his 14-year-old brother with a baseball bat to death in October 2016, was sentenced last week to 15 years to life in prison, according to court documents.
The violent slaying of Harley Starling resembled something out of a horror movie and is the worst child-on-child crime Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson has ever prosecuted, he said.
“It was up close, it was personal, if you think about it,” Wilson said. “He took that bat and you know he was feeling the shock of that bat as he hit his brother in the head with it. And to finish him off he walks into the kitchen and grabs a knife and plunges that knife into his brother’s throat.”
Jim Marshall, Clark County public defender and Nicholas’ attorney, didn’t return a call from the Springfield News-Sun seeking comment Tuesday.
Harley was found dead in his bed by his grandmother at his Superior Avenue home on the morning of Oct. 31, 9-1-1 audio recordings indicate.
Detectives and prosecutors quickly connected the murder to Nicholas Starling, Wilson said, but they still can’t find a direct motive.
“The question was always why would he do something like that,” Wilson said. “We will never get the answer to that. Clearly, this is a very disturbed young man and we hope that the parole board, when he eventually does come up for parole, looks very seriously at what he’s done.”
Springfield Police Division Detective Ron Jordan testified in an earlier court hearing that Nicholas Starling said he and his brother had been in a previous argument over Halloween candy.
The two might have been fighting over Halloween candy, Wilson said, but investigators couldn’t directly link the fight to the killing.
“We never could figure out why he did what he did,” he said.
The older brother’s tough upbringing might have played a role, Wilson said. The teen’s father was murdered two years before and his mother was in and out of the boys’ lives, Wilson said.
Another possible reason was the teen’s interest, Wilson said.
“He seemed to be researching the occult, the Insane Clown Posse,” Wilson said. “He was very into some satanic worship and that kind of stuff. We were never able to prove a direct link between why he did what he did and his interests, but it piles on for how disturbed this kid is.”
But that doesn’t excuse him from the consequences of the violent murder, Wilson said, and Nicholas Starling wasn’t criminally insane at the time of the slaying.
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“Anyone who could do something like this is ill,” he said. “You have to be a sick person to do what he did but that doesn’t mean you are criminally insane. It is very clear from the evidence that when he murdered his brother he was certainly able to appreciate the wrongness of his actions.”
Nicholas took steps to cover up what he did, Wilson said, including hiding the bat and knife and trying to make it look like a suicide.