WARNING: The following details may disturb some readers.
A man who testified that he thought he was in a video game as he stabbed a seven-year-old girl to death was convicted Friday of second-degree murder.
David Moss, 37, sought a ruling that he was not criminally responsible for the 2020 killing of Bella Rose Desrosiers in Edmonton, telling his judge-alone trial that the voice of a demon told him to harm the girl.
Court of King’s Bench Justice Steven N. Mandziuk said the evidence didn’t support Moss suffering from a mental disorder at the time of the killing.
Moss knew what he was doing was wrong, the judge said.
“Moss indeed had no motive to kill or harm Bella outside of his delusional belief system, which included that it would help in Bella’s ascension, that it was a game … that it would benefit the entire family … that he felt that his only choice was to kill Bella or not ascend,” Mandziuk wrote in his decision.
“None of these beliefs negate Mr. Moss’s intent to commit murder.”
Mandziuk described the crime as an unspeakable tragedy.
“Mr. Moss took a young child’s life in a shocking and agonizing way that has caused unimaginable damage to Bella’s family, friends and community.”
Moss automatically receives a life sentence with the murder conviction. A sentencing hearing is to be held at a later date to determine his parole eligibility.
Moss testified at his trial he grew up in a sexually, physically and verbally abusive household in Holden, Alta., and began consuming alcohol and cannabis at a very young age. He dropped out of school in Grade 10 and moved to Edmonton when he was 17.
Moss said he was hit in the head with a rock when he was a teen, causing his scalp to shatter, and he couldn’t speak properly and experienced memory issues.
He met his wife a year later, and they had four children.
In 2019, Moss was prescribed medication for hearing voices but would often skip doses.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020, Moss was forced to close his tattoo shop. He said that his belief in conspiracies and spiritual awakening intensified. He began posting on social media about COVID-19 vaccines containing microchips.
Moss’s estranged wife and sister testified that his mental health took an extreme and bizarre turn days before the killing, saying that he was having thoughts of self-harm and causing harm to his wife and children.
Tracy Couture-Strarosta testified that the day before the killing, she woke up to the sound of Moss sobbing. He told her that he had affairs with other women and was sexually assaulted by his cousin when he was nine.
Apryl Pfunder testified that the day before the killing, her brother said he was seeing spirits, demons and a little girl waving at him, and that he hadn’t eaten or slept in days because he wanted to stay in the spiritual world. He promised Pfunder that he would eat and sleep that night.
The following morning, on May 18, 2020, court heard that Moss called his wife, Couture-Strarosta, and threatened to kill her and himself. She called police and the crisis response team, who evaluated Moss and scheduled a meeting with him that afternoon, but he never went.
Moss was a new friend of Bella’s mother, Melissa Desrosiers, and was staying at her home in southeastern Edmonton so she could take him to the hospital to get mental health treatment for suicidal thoughts.
That night, he was staying with Desrosiers, who planned to take him to the hospital to get help.
Desrosiers was about to kiss her daughter good night in the room the girl shared with her sister when Moss appeared in the doorway, holding a pair of scissors.
Court heard that Moss pushed the mother aside and slashed at Bella’s neck. Desrosiers fought him as she told her other daughter to run to the bathroom and lock herself inside.
When police arrived, they found Bella dead in the living room, nearly decapitated. Moss was sitting on a couch, his hands and feet bloodied.
The defence played a video at the trial of Moss after his arrest, hitting his head against the bed of his cell and pulling out his front teeth. Another video showed Moss attacking a health-care worker, choking her, as a guard repeatedly punched him before he let go.
Moss also told court that he attempted to hang himself while in custody.
Mandziuk’s written decision for the verdict indicated that Moss started using cannabis when he was about 10 years-old and his consumption varied over the years.
Couture-Starosta told the court that when Moss consumed edible cannabis, he would often become paranoid.
During the trial, the Crown argued that Moss had drug-induced psychosis from a lifetime of cannabis consumption rather than a mental disorder caused by his brain injury in 2004.
Mandziuk said that Moss’s cannabis consumption increased after COVID restrictions were imposed. Edmonton police collected a urine sample from Moss five days after the killing, which tested positive for cannabis.
Angela Amato, The Canadian Press