KELOWNA - Tears of joy and immense relief filled a Kelowna courtroom Saturday when Matthew Foerster was pronounced guilty of first degree murder in the death of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest.
The verdict comes more than two years after Van Diest, 18, was murdered while walking to meet her friends Halloween night 2011. It took a jury of seven men and five women roughly ten hours to reach a decision.
Taylor’s mother, Marie Van Diest, says the wait was difficult, but worth it.
“It’s a gratifying, gratifying day,” she said, smiling in the sunshine outside the Kelowna courthouse.
“It will never bring her back but at least now no other girl will meet the same fate that she met, and we’re just happy that animal is going to be off the streets for a very long time. Not long enough for me but it will suffice for now,” she said.
Foerster’s first degree murder charge carries a sentence of life in prison, with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
Taylor’s twin sister Kirstie and father Raymond were among the dozens of friends and family who packed the courtroom Saturday for the verdict. None of them slept well Friday night, if at all, as they awaited the decision. Crown lawyer Iain Currie, who blinked back tears when the verdict was read, kept in close contact with the family throughout the trial.
“When we got that text message (saying the verdict was in) I think everyone’s heart just dropped... the anxiety was through the roof,” Kirstie said, wiping tears from her eyes. “But at least we got the best outcome we could have gotten under the circumstances.”
Several jurors were teary-eyed, others smiling as they rose to confirm their verdict.
“I think they basically have felt the emotions we have felt throughout and we thank them all very much for that,” Marie said.
Foerster, 28, appeared numb as he listened to the verdict, maintaining the same expressionless gaze he has held throughout the trial.
Crown counsels Iain Currie and Frank Caputo, as well as Foerster’s defense lawyer Lisa Jean Helps, excused themselves after the verdict was delivered and did not speak to the media.
To deem Foerster guilty of first degree murder, the jury had to find he was sexually assaulting Van Diest, or attempting to do so, when he killed her on the railway tracks in Armstrong.
After speaking briefly with reporters, the Van Diest family departed the courthouse they have faithfully sat in for weeks. It was time to celebrate.
“(Now) I think we try to carry on with life with a different sense of normal.... We’re just going to have to recreate our lives and do the best we can,” Marie said.
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FOERSTER TRIAL: The night Taylor Van Diest was killed
FOERSTER TRIAL: “Taylor Van Diest caught her own killer"
FOERSTER TRIAL: Jury sent home while lawyers discuss case
FOERSTER TRIAL: Emergency doctor describes the night he treated Van Diest
FOERSTER TRIAL: Accused explains how he killed her
FOERSTER TRIAL: "I've made some mistakes"
FOERSTER TRIAL: Court sees video of police interview with accused
FOERSTER TRIAL: Tearful testimony from Van Diest's friend
FOERSTER TRIAL: Van Diest fought back
FOERSTER TRIAL: Foerster admits to killing Armstrong teen
FOERSTER TRIAL: Foerster's DNA under victim's fingernails: Crown
FOERSTER TRIAL: Foerster trial moves forward
FOERSTER TRIAL: Jury selection begins for murder trial
Murder trial to begin for Matthew Foerster, accused of Halloween night slaying
Father will stand trial for accessory to teen's murder
Anniversary of teen's death brings both sorrow and light
Taylor Van Diest memorial trail officially open
New direction for path where Armstrong teen was killed
A family's sorrow and frustration in the wake of Taylor Van Diest's murder
Trial date set in Van Diest murder
No limit on lawyer-switching for accused killer
- This story was updated at 2:17 p.m. to add a video.
- This story was edited at 1:22 p.m. April 5 to add comments from Taylor Van Diest's family.