The eyes of the 46-year-old mother welled up once again as family members reminded her that, yes, she too is a victim of her son.
Lisa Frye moved her trembling hand from the wound in her throat to her thigh and back again as she recounted what happened the night she was attacked in her Southington home.
Frye said that when she went to bed June 22, she had it all: the man she loved, her home, her belongings and her son.
Within hours, all of that was gone.
"Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that day. I thought everything was fine. I thought it was like any other night. Obviously it wasn't," she said.
Frye has spent the time since that night in recovery. On Friday, she underwent her fourth, and what she hopes is her final, surgery. A knife wound to her neck resulted in a tracheotomy. Until recently she also relied on a feeding tube.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
Lisa Frye shows the injuries she received in a June 22 attack at her home in which her partner, Jeffrey Westfall, died. Her son, Thomas Starr, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the attacks.
Friday's surgery was to close the trach and remove a feeding tube.
She said the most difficult part of the healing process is the fact that it was her 29-year-old son, Thomas J. Starr, who tore her world apart.
Starr is awaiting trial in the stabbing death of 53-year-old Jeffrey Westfall, with whom Frye shared a home for 24 years. He is also accused of stabbing her, his mother, multiple times.
Below are excepts from more than 25 phone conversations a man who identified himself as Thomas Starr had with Trumbull County 911 dispatchers between 10:10 and 11:30 p.m. Saturday.
Trumbull 911: 911. What's your emergency?
Caller: Um. I just attempted to kill my mother and stepfather.
911: OK. Where are you at, sir?
Caller: Um. I'm hanging out in the woods in Southington.
911: OK. Do you know where you're at?
Caller: No, not exactly
911: OK, are you off of (state Route) 305?
Caller: Um. I'm not sure. That's where I used to live.
911: OK. What happened?
Caller: Um. I don't know, I mean. ... They're just bad, bad people, I guess.
911: How did you try to kill them?
Caller: With a knife.
911: OK. Do you know where this happened at?
Caller: Um. What do you mean?
911: Do you know where they're at right now?
Caller: No. I'm not sure where they are right now, 'cause I left. See, I'm not there right now.
911: So you said you're in the woods right now?
Caller: Yeah, somewhere.
911: OK. Hold on one second for me, OK? Do you need any medical help right now?
Caller: No. (laughs) No. I think I got something wrong.
911: OK. We'll get you some help. Can you go out to a street and see where you're at?
Caller: No. No. I think I'm pretty deep in the woods at this point.
911: OK. You don't know which way you're facing so I can help you get out?
Caller: No. No I don't
911: OK. Hold on one second. What's your name sir?
Caller: I'll turn my GPS on. You can trace it.
911: OK. What's your name, sir?
Caller: My name's Thomas.
911: What's your last name?
Caller: Starr. S-t-a-r-r.
911: OK. Thomas, you still there?
911: OK. You still have it with you, you said?
911: You still have the knife with you?
Starr: No. No. I don't have any weapons on me.
911: Oh. OK. You said you did have a knife, correct?
Starr: I did. I left it.
911: OK. Where'd you leave it?
Starr: Um. Somewhere in the house. I can hear a siren.
911: Yeah, we got a call that there was someone laying in the street. Could that be somebody that you know?
911: How can I help you Thomas? How can I get some help for you?
Starr: Um, I mean I don't know. I just really wanted someone to talk to.
911: OK. Just hold on one second for me, OK?
Starr: Um. You're not being very courteous with our conversation.
911: I'm trying to help you out. I got to talk to my officers and paramedics headed out that way, OK?
Starr: You don't listen very well. 911 operator, you'd think you'd listen a little better to the people who are calling you.
911: We're trying to help you out. I'm talking to my officers.
Starr: I'm trying to help you. You're not helping me at all because I'm the one that committed the crime. So I'm actually helping you by telling you where I am.
911: I appreciate ...
Starr: So, let's not get that misconstrued.
911: No, I'm not trying to do that. I'm just trying to figure out where you are so we can get some help ...
Starr: Now you're kissing my a-. I want somebody else. Let me talk to somebody else.
911: OK. Hold on one second.
911: You want to tell me what happened?
Starr: Um. I think I did something bad.
911: You think you did something bad?
Starr: Yeah. I killed a bad person, maybe. I don't know.
911: OK. What do you think that you did?
Starr: I think I stabbed my stepdad in the throat with a knife.
911: You stabbed your stepdad in the throat with a knife, OK. Where is your stepdad right now?
Starr: I don't know because I'm not there.
911: OK. Do you remember where you were when you did it?
Starr: Yeah, I was where he lived.
911: Where did you used to live?
Starr: It was on 305. I don't know the address exactly.
(Starr then describes the house where his stepfather lives)
Starr: I hear sirens.
911: You hear sirens. Are you armed?
Starr: No. No. Absolutely not.
Starr: I haven't been armed all night.
911: Your stepdad? What's his name?
Starr: It's Jeff.
911: Where's your mom at right now?
Starr: I don't know.
911: Anything happen to your mom?
911: You don't remember or you're not sure?
Starr: I'm not sure.
911: What's your mom's name?
911: You don't know where your mom is then?
Starr: No. Is she OK?
911: We don't know. That's why we're trying to get an address and find out where she is.
Starr: I don't know. There's a lot of bugs out here.
911: What can I do for you?
Starr: You can't do anything for me. I called to help you.
911: What do you want me to know then?
Starr: I don't know anything. I'm in the middle of the f--- woods. What do you want to know?
911: What would you like to do? Would you like to come out and talk to somebody?
Starr: I called and told you I tried to kill somebody.
(They discuss the difficulty authorities are having finding Starr)
911: When you left the house where your stepdad is. Do you remember what you did?
911: What did you do?
Starr: I tried to kill him.
911: Did he try to hurt you?
911: Did he try to hurt your mom?
911: Why did the incident happen?
Starr: Because he's a bad man.
(The dispatcher then tries to reassure Starr that police are looking for him to make sure he's OK.)
Source: Trumbull County 911 recordings.
In July, Starr's attorneys, Matt Pentz and David Rouzzo, filed a motion to have a mental health expert test his competency. Last week the attorneys declined to comment on specifics of the case but said they are waiting on the results of a mental evaluation by a state psychologist.
Starr, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, is being held at the Trumbull County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond. His pretrial in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court was postponed last week to allow for the psychological evaluation to be completed.
Meanwhile, Frye, who has not had any contact with Starr since the attack, said her son suffers from depression and anxiety.
She said Starr, who was living with her and Westfall, had become upset when he had to get rid of his dog and later when he was told he he had to move from their Southington home. His family said they never imagined he would lash out physically.
"He was in the military, and when he came back, he wasn't the same," said Frye's mother, Donna Klasic.
"He isn't our T.J. anymore. He isn't the T.J. we know and love. He's someone else. Our T.J. would have never done something like this."
If you listen closely as Frye speaks, you can hear a whistling sound coming from her neck. To quiet that "noise," she covers the wound with her hand. That steady movement of hand to thigh to throat has become habit - part anxiety and part necessity. She was unable to speak for several weeks after being stabbed.
She explained that the home she and Westfall shared in Southington was a rental. She has been living with her parents on the West Side of Youngstown since being released from the hospital.
She said that she and Westfall were never legally married but that they had made a commitment to each other during a special ceremony.
Westfall made a living transporting area Amish people.
"My parents do everything for me. They have a hard enough time with their own expenses. They pay for my medicine. They help me with my doctor's appointments, my food, my medical bills, everything. I have nothing. Jeff was the breadwinner and he took care of everything.
''It's so hard and I feel so ashamed because T.J.'s my son. Part of me feels responsible and I feel like Jeff's family, his children, blame me as well as T.J."
She said she has had some contact with the 19-year-old son she and Westfall have together. He is living with Westfall's brother.
"We were a family. Jeff's children, T.J, our son together, they were all brothers and sisters. They were raised together and acted like brothers and sisters. This whole thing has torn us all apart," she said.
Because she was in the hospital, she was not able to attend Westfall's funeral. She said she also hasn't had any contact with his children since shortly after the attack.
Frye said that she was awakened from a sound sleep that night by Westfall's screams. She had gone to bed after watching TV earlier in the evening.
"He kept crying and yelling and asking why. I saw that he was covered in blood and I tried to help him. I tried calling 911 but I couldn't get the call to go through. I don't know why. It was all so confusing," she said.
Frye said she made her way outside into the dark night and traveled down the long driveway from the couple's A-frame home to the road, where she collapsed. At some point she realized she also had been stabbed, possibly while she was sleeping, she said.
"I was trying to get help and as I was going down the driveway, I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker. I fell, collapsed several times, maybe three or four times, but somehow got back up," she said. "I could feel the blood, that I was bleeding."
At least one passer-by thought she was a teenage boy playing a hoax, she said.
"There is a kid out here covered in blood that was flagging us down," the caller told 911 dispatchers who answered the initial call.
When questioned about the child's age, the caller said he didn't get out of the vehicle because he did not know if this was a "set up."
Once emergency crews arrived, Frye said she remembers begging them to "go help Jeff." She passed out and woke up the next day in the hospital.
Soon after that call, a man identifying himself as Starr called the Trumbull County 911 Dispatch Center and told the operator that he tried to kill his stepfather, Jeff, and his mother, Lisa.
Starr, seemingly disoriented, said he called because he needed someone to talk to, and that he was lost in the woods.
When asked how he tried to kill them, Starr responded: "With a knife."
Frye said she may never know what caused her son to turn so violently against her and the only father he had ever known. She said that maybe in time she will be able to forgive him.
"Sadly, I can't even look at him now. I know I couldn't face him. I don't want to see him, and that breaks my heart. He's my son. We loved him. Jeff really was the only father he ever knew. I don't know why or how he could have done this. I may never know," she said.
Investigators found Westfall dead near the front porch of his home on state Route 305 with his throat slashed.
Frye was also found stabbed, but alive, on the road on Route 305, three-quarters of a mile west of U.S. Route 422. She was flown by helicopter to a Cleveland hospital and spent two months there.
It took authorities more than an hour to locate Starr in the wooded area he had wandered into.
Starr was initially charged with the felony murder, but after hearing additional evidence, the grand jury determined that Westfall's death was premeditated and increased Starr's charges to aggravated murder, which call for prior calculation and design in the killing.
If convicted, Starr could face anywhere from 20 to life in prison or life without parole.