It was the day Marie Van Diest had hoped and prayed for ever since her 18-year-old daughter Taylor was killed on her way to a Halloween party in the northern Okanagan community of Armstrong.
“Today is a day filled with mixed emotions. We can finally direct our anger at a face,” the grieving mother said during a police news conference to announce arrests in the case. “Now I know what evil looks like.”
Taylor was found badly beaten and unconscious last October and died of her injuries. The RCMP have not disclosed her exact cause of death.
Shortly before she was attacked, Taylor sent a text message to her boyfriend in which she said she was “being creeped,” but provided no other details, according to her best friend.
Her death sent shockwaves through the community of 5,000. Police urged the public to remain vigilant and to take extra safety precautions. Mayor Chris Pieper attended Thursday’s news conference in Armstrong and said the community changed the day Taylor was slain.
“We have become more cautious, sort of lost our innocence,” he said.
The teen’s mother, flanked during the tearful news conference by Taylor’s uncle and twin sister, said now that arrests have been made “perhaps we can all begin the healing process.”
Mounties have said Taylor left her home around 5:50 p.m. She walked for 10 minutes, until she reached a set of railroad tracks near Rosedale Avenue. The last contact she had with friends was the 6 p.m. text. At 7:30 p.m., her cellphone was found near the tracks and RCMP were notified of her disappearance. Friends and family began searching and found Taylor at 8:45 p.m., less than one kilometre from her home.
Matthew Stephen Foerster, 26, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder. Police said they had trouble locating Mr. Foerster over the past few months, but he was arrested Wednesday at a motel in Collingwood, Ont.
His 58-year-old father Roy has also been charged, with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of accessory after the fact to murder. The father was taken into custody at his home in Cherryville, about 75 kilometres southeast of Armstrong. The younger Mr. Foerster formerly lived in Cherryville.
The RCMP, citing the fact the cases are now before the courts, said little about the slaying itself Thursday. They did note, though, that there is no evidence Taylor knew the man charged with killing her.
“I will say that at the very beginning stages of this investigation it was an absolute mystery,” said RCMP Inspector Brendan Fitzpatrick, operations officer for the E Division major crime section. “There was very little evidence. It was very distressing the way it took place. And the amount of information that was available at the time to work on – at some points, our investigation team were extremely concerned about the fact that there was hardly any starting point.”
About two weeks after the killing, police received an anonymous letter from someone claiming responsibility for Taylor’s death. The letter threatened further violence against women. Insp. Fitzpatrick said the source of the letter is still under investigation.
Later that month, RCMP announced they had linked DNA collected from Taylor’s death to the unsolved 2005 sexual assault of a Kelowna woman. A sketch was released of the suspect at that time, and although police wouldn’t disclose how pivotal a role that played in the investigation, they did note the public identified numerous people who fit the description.
During Thursday’s news conference, police announced Mr. Foerster has been charged with sexual assault and unlawful confinement in connection with the Kelowna case.
He was also charged with possession of a break-in instrument, breaking and entering commit an indictable offence, and assault with a weapon in connection with a home invasion in Cherryville in 2004.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.