Nicholas Starling, who murdered his younger brother during a dispute over Halloween candy, was charged as an adult in the slaying. Convicted of murder last week, the 17-year-old Starling was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He pleaded guilty to the charge in an Ohio courtroom in Springfield, about 50 miles west of Columbus. According to the Clark County prosecutor, Starling may be eligible for parole in 15 years.

Starling was 16 when he killed his brother, Harley Starling, who was 14 years old at the time of the incident in October 2016. According to police, Starling entered his brother’s bedroom and smacked him on the head with a baseball bat. To finish the job, Starling stabbed the boy in the neck. 

Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson told the Springfield News Sun that the Starling case was the worst he has ever seen in which one child killed another. Wilson told the paper that the murder was “up close, it was personal.” The prosecutor described how the crime went down: “ 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." Starling took measures to conceal his crime, according to Wilson, who said that the teen hid the baseball bat and knife and tried to make the death appear suicidal. 

While Starling admitted that he was upset with his brother over the Halloween sweets, the ultimate motive remains unclear. Wilson suggest that a difficult childhood, and dabbling in the Insane Clown Posse and “satanic worship” were contributing factors. Starling’s father was the victim of murder three years ago, while his mother was often absent. "You have to be a sick person to do what he did but that doesn't mean you are criminally insane," Wilson said. The prosecutor likened the murder to a horror movie.

On October 16, 2016, the boys’ grandmother found the lifeless body of Harley Starling in his bed. Here follows a partial transcript of the more than 7-minute-long 9-1-1 call she made to emergency dispatchers to report the crime:


(Grandmother of 14-year-old Harley Starling)

My grandson evidently killed himself last night, he’s cold, he’s cold you can’t move him. I tried shaking him and waking him up.


Do you know what happened?


No I don’t. I don’t know if he was playing with that fake blood stuff, his head is back, his eyes are open.


Why don’t you go outside and wait for the medics to arrive.


My other grandson is here, he’s standing here, we don’t even understand why. I don’t know if he was playing with fake blood or what, it’s all over his arm and up around his shoulder. His eyes are open too.

I shook him because I was trying to wake him up. He had the blanket up over his face.

Caller to older brother:

Go in the other room, don’t come in here and stare at him.

Caller to dispatcher:

He’s always playing jokes and things so we thought he was just joking.


How old is he?


He’s 14. His dad just died two years ago.


Are there any guns in the house that you know of?


Yes but he can’t get to them.

They live with me, they’ve lived with me since their dad died.


Did you hear anything weird last night?


No, we just went to bed and that was it.


What room is he in?


He’s in his bedroom…I don’t know when he did it. (crying)

I’m standing in the living room with his brother.


How old is his brother?


He’s 16, his name is Nicholas.


Try to keep everybody calm, I know it’s going to be hard, this is confusing and scary.


I don’t know why…I’m trying to keep calm.


You are doing a good job (keeping calm) being there for his brother.

Try to keep everybody away from the room.


I know he was having problems at school. (crying)

But there was no inkling, he said he wouldn’t do anything like this.

I know he was playing with that fake blood last night and I don’t know if he drank it or what, or was he playing with it and put it on his body?


You don’t have to try and figure that out, they’ll do that.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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