When Kirstie Van Diest picked up the telephone and heard a stranger’s voice on her missing twin sister’s cellphone, she feared something was horribly wrong.
Kirstie had been waiting by the phone Monday evening for news, while her family was out searching for Taylor. She could not have known when she received the call that her sister would soon be declared the victim of a homicide.
The 18-year-old from Armstrong, B.C. had been late for a Halloween party by the time they set out to look for her, and the sun had long set.
The call came from local teenagers who said they found her cellphone on the railroad tracks and dialled the number listed as home. The lost phone explained why Taylor’s friends and family had been unable to reach her.
Kirstie said she dialed her family and told them about the call.
Around 8:30 p.m., friends and family found Taylor lying unconscious in a bush near the railway tracks at the 3100 block of Rosedale Avenue.
Taylor was rushed to Vernon Hospital with severe injuries. She was soon transferred to Kelowna General, but later died despite emergency treatment.
The RCMP confirmed Tuesday that the case is being investigated as a homicide. Police have ordered an autopsy.
“I don’t understand how anyone could do this to her,” Kirstie said. “She was like the nicest person. She had a smile that could light up the room.”
Kirstie said Taylor always went out of her way to make people happy. “No one disliked her,” she said.
Even though she was the elder twin by two minutes, Kirstie said she always went to Taylor for help and advice.
“When we were little we would sleep in the same room,” Kirstie recalled through tears. “We finally got our own rooms. The first night we shared the same bedroom. I couldn’t stay alone.”
She added: “I don’t understand how anyone could do this to her. I just want her back.”
Taylor’s uncle, Paul Albert, spoke on behalf of the family. He said Taylor had been planning to hand out candy and trick-or-treat with friends that evening. He said she was walking alone and texting friends on her cellphone when the texts suddenly stopped coming.
Mr. Albert said Taylor’s mother phoned police in the north Okanagan community about the disappearance around 7:30 p.m. He said people started searching for Taylor just after 8 p.m. She was found 45 minutes later.
“You never think of it,” Mr. Albert said. “Especially Halloween night, my God there’s people everywhere.”
Mr. Albert spent the evening at the hospital alongside Taylor’s mother.
“It was very, very horrific,” he said. “The amount of damage that was done to her … they’ve got to find this person. They need to be held accountable.”
Mr. Albert said support for his sister has been overwhelming and thanked the RCMP for their work.
The South East District Major Crime Section is working with the Vernon/North Okanagan Detachment to investigate the homicide.
The Mounties have asked the public to call the local RCMP detachment or Crime Stoppers with any tips related to the investigation, including exactly who Taylor was en route to meet that evening.
They are asking the public to report any activity that took place around the scene of the crime Monday evening, and are hoping to speak to anyone who saw Taylor that day.