March 27, 2014 - 1:21 PM
THINGS 'GOT STRANGE REALLY FAST'
KELOWNA - An Armstrong teen broke down in tears on the witness stand this morning when text messages he exchanged with Taylor Van Diest the night she was killed were read in court.
Clay Valstar, 19, affectionately called Van Diest Taylorsaurus. She called him Clayseraptor. The nicknames, and Valstar’s tearful reaction to them, show how close the teens were and how hard it was for him to revisit the tragic night.
They were supposed to go trick-or-treating with a couple of friends and had made loose plans for Van Diest to meet him at his house, just a short walk from hers. The day of Oct. 31 2011, they texted back and forth. The messages are filled with smiley faces and exclamation points; even though the two were in their late teens, they were clearly excited for the evening.
Outside court, mother Marie Van Diest spoke fondly of her daughter’s love of Halloween.
“She was just so passionate about Halloween, it was her favourite day of the year,” she said.
Matthew Foerster, 28, is charged with first degree murder. He already admitted to killing her, but whether his actions were planned and deliberate, or committed during a sexual assault—both of which constitute first degree murder—is the burden of the Crown. The jury could also find him guilty of second degree murder or manslaughter.
Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Van Diest texted Valstar saying she’d meet him at his house around 6 p.m. He grabbed some food at McDonald’s but was home to meet her at the agreed upon time. She didn’t show.
“I thought I was honestly being stood up at the time,” Valstar said.
He texted her, asking where she was but got no reply. He went out on the street to see if she was coming—no sign of her. Van Diest’s boyfriend Colton was already there, playing a card game with Valstar’s brother. Phoning Van Diest’s home, Valstar learned she wasn’t there, but a mutual friend, Zoe, was. The girls had planned to meet at Van Diest’s house and walk together to Valstar’s, he said.
The group eventually noticed a text message on Colton’s cell phone that read “being crepped.” It was sent 15 minutes earlier. After that, Valstar said things “got strange really fast.”
The friends drove around Armstrong looking for her at the skatepark and downtown, calling her name. Later, Van Diest’s sister called or texted—Valstar couldn’t remember which—to say her sister’s phone had been found on the railway tracks along Pleasant Valley Road.
While searching for her with flashlights in the dark night, Valstar heard Zoe and Colton screaming some distance down the tracks. When he caught up, he saw Van Diest, who had dressed as a zombie that night, lying face down in a ditch with her head against a pole.
“I had my jacket down (over Van Diest), I didn’t know what else I could do,” he said.
He thinks he remembers her groaning and twitching as they waited for an ambulance to arrive. He drove with Colton’s parents to the hospital where he gave a statement to police.
Under cross examination with Foerster’s defense lawyer Lisa Jean Helps, Valstar added that it was slippery on the tracks that night, and that his initial concern was that Van Diest had fallen.
Court also heard from Liam Brown, who was 14 when he and his friends found Van Diest’s cell phone on the railway tracks in Armstrong. He said it was about 8 p.m. when they found it and called the contact for ‘home.’ Van Diest’s sister answered and told them where she lived so they could bring it to her. After that, Brown and his friends went on their way. Later that night, they passed the crime scene and Brown showed police exactly where he found the phone.
A video in which Foerster allegedly confesses to killing Van Diest is expected to be shown this afternoon.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
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