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ARMSTRONG - A murder trial into the death of an Armstrong teen concluded in 2014, putting the Cherryville man at its center behind bars for at least 25 years.
The gruesome details of 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest’s murder at the hands of 28-year-old Matthew Foerster were revealed in a two-week trial in Kelowna Supreme Court.
Crown counsels Iain Currie and Frank Caputo argued Foerster went to Armstrong the night of Oct. 31, 2011 looking for sex. He waited on a dark, secluded pathway and chose Van Diest as his victim, but she fought back. In a taped police interview, Foerster admitted to using a shoelace to strangle her, and a Maglite flashlight to knock her out. He said he later hid the evidence in a dumpster.
The one thing he left at the scene was his DNA. As Van Diest clawed back at her attacker, she caught a fleck of his DNA under her fingernail. A resourceful nurse at Vernon Jubilee Hospital clipper her nails and police ran the evidence through the national DNA database. It matched evidence collected in an unsolved sexual assault case from 2005, in which a Kelowna escort was brutally raped.
Foerster’s defense team, led by lawyer Lisa Jean Helps and aided by articling student Camille Cook, agreed their client killed Van Diest, but told the jury he was guilty of manslaughter, not first degree murder.
To prove the first degree murder charge, the Crown had to establish Foerster killed Van Diest while committing, or attempting to commit, a sexual assault. Helps argued if Foerster was there to sexually assault Van Diest, why didn’t he follow through with it? An autopsy found no evidence Van Diest was sexually assaulted. She also told the jury Foerster could have been intoxicated that night, something which would leave him incapable of forming the intent to kill her.
It took the jury of seven men and five women roughly ten hours to reach a first degree murder verdict, condemning Foerster to life in prison, with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Van Diest’s parents and twin sister, along with numerous other supporters, attended every day of the trial and cried tears of relief when the teen’s killer was put away for life. That joy would prove temporary, however, with Foerster’s decision to appeal the conviction some months later. A notice of appeal has been filed, however it is unknown at this point whether the appeal will be heard.
Several months after the murder trial wrapped up, Foerster pleaded guilty to raping an escort at the Garden of Eden in Kelowna, and to breaking into a young Cherryville woman’s home. He was handed a six-year jail sentence on both files, to be served at the same time as each other, and at the same time as his life sentence, meaning he will see no new time. Canada’s Criminal Code states any sentence imposed on a life sentence must be concurrent (served at the same time).
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