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A man accused of killing a young woman in Toronto’s gay village last year has seen his charge upgraded to first-degree murder.

Police initially charged Kalen Schlatter, 21, with second-degree murder last month in the death of Tess Richey, who, investigators say, died of “neck compression.”

Richey, 22, was reported missing in November after a night out with a friend.

Her mother, who travelled from her home in North Bay to search for her, found Richey’s body four days later in a stairwell at the back of an alley, just steps from where she was last seen alive.

Richey met Schlatter on the street after she and her friend left a bar the night she disappeared, investigators have said. Surveillance video released by police shows Schlatter and Richey together near the alley.

The Criminal Code defines first-degree murder as being “planned and deliberate.” But the charge can also be laid in cases where a murder takes place during a sexual assault, hijacking or kidnapping, for example.

Toronto police declined Wednesday to comment on the upgraded charge against Schlatter.

Richey’s death and the disappearances of several men with links to the gay village prompted complaints from the community that police were not doing enough to protect them.

Chief Mark Saunders announced in December that the force would review its handling of missing persons cases.

Self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, has since been charged with six counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths and disappearances of several men, most of them with ties to the area.

Police say the Richey and McArthur cases are not related.

Schlatter is to appear in court Thursday morning.

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