Taylor Van Diest’s mother is dismissing a suggestion that the man convicted of murdering her teenaged daughter feels badly for the family of his victim.
“I feel the only thing he was showing remorse toward was the fact that he was caught,” Marie Van Diest said Sunday in an interview, a day after 28-year-old Matthew Foerster was convicted by a Kelowna jury of first-degree murder in the death of the 18-year-old. He stalked her as she walked to Halloween festivities in their north Okanagan community of Armstrong in 2011.
He received the automatic sentence of 25 years before he is eligible to seek parole.
“Sitting in the courtroom during the voir dire and the trial itself, I saw none of that. It was just a very emotionless, vacant face. We saw nothing, nothing of the sort,” she said.
Although Mr. Foerster pleaded not guilty in the death of Ms. Van Diest, he admitted he’d attacked the teenager who was dressed as a zombie that night for Halloween.
Mr. Foerster’s lawyer, Lisa Jean Helps, said in an interview on Sunday that her client feels badly for the outcome in the case.
“Of course, he is devastated and overwhelmed by the verdict, because my client never intended to kill Taylor Van Diest,” Ms. Helps said. “He admitted his responsibility, feels sincere remorse and is simply devastated by the entire situation, including how Ms. Van Diest’s family must feel.”
During the trial, Ms. Helps did not call any witnesses before wrapping up her case. But, she told the jury her client’s actions amounted to manslaughter, not first-degree murder.
She said Mr. Foerster, who was arrested in 2012 in the case, wanted to have sex with Ms. Van Diest when he came upon her in an isolated area of Armstrong.
But when the teen fought back, the trial was told that Mr. Foerster pushed her down, causing her to hit her head on a steel pipe.
Ms. Van Diest said the sentence for Mr. Foerster is too light.
“I really don’t feel that it’s adequate,” she said, noting that Taylor, as well as her sister, were strong believers in an “eye for an eye” as a basis for justice.
“Twenty-five years. It’s a quarter of a person’s life and Taylor hadn’t even come close to living out a quarter of her life,” said Ms. Van Diest.
Instead, she said Mr. Forester should have been sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in jail.
While a quarter century is a long time, she said a member of the family will “for certain” be present for any future parole hearings for Mr. Foerster. “If it’s not myself, it will certainly be Taylor’s sister making sure, if it’s at all possible, that he remains behind bars,” she said.
The trial heard that witnesses found Taylor Van Diest barely alive at about 8:30 p.m. that night. Jurors heard evidence that she was lying face down near the railway tracks, her head resting on a steel pipe.
She had suffered six blows to the head, a pathologist testified, and one of them fractured her skull and caused a severe brain injury.
Crown lawyer Iain Currie told the jury the fact Mr. Foerster hit Ms. Van Diest on the head six times with a heavy flashlight, tightened a shoelace around her neck and drove to Vernon, where he threw evidence in a dumpster, leaves little doubt that he intended to kill her.
Mr. Currie said Mr. Foerster, intent on sex, walked behind his victim and attacked when the teen reached a secluded corridor, beating her so hard he fractured her hands.
Mr. Currie also noted Mr. Foerster admitted, in a videotaped statement shown in court, to killing Ms. Van Diest.
With a report from The Canadian Press