VERNON - Matthew Foerster’s DNA was found under the fingernails of slain Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest, Crown counsel said in the opening arguments of a murder trial in Kelowna Supreme Court.
Foerster, 28, is accused of the first-degree murder of 18-year-old Van Diest on Halloween night, 2011 in Armstrong. His trial by a jury of five women and seven men began Monday and could last up to three weeks.
Crown lawyers Iain Currie and Frank Caputo said their case involves 16 witnesses and will run to the middle of next week. Then, defense lawyer Lisa Jean Helps and articling student Camille Cook will present their evidence.
The victim’s mother, Marie Van Diest, says it’s a relief for the case to finally be at trial. She was surrounded by friends and family Monday and plans to attend all court proceedings.
“It’s pretty hard to have to relive what we went through in October 2011. It’s always in our minds of course, but to have it... brought forth in your face like that is very difficult,” she said on a court break.
Caputo gave a brief outline of the Crown’s case during opening arguments Monday morning. He began by recounting the events of Oct. 31, 2011. Around 6 p.m., Van Diest, who was on her way to meet some friends, texted her boyfriend she was ‘being crepped.’ The next text never got sent, but was later found on her cell phone in drafts. It simply said ‘Holly.’
A young man walking with his friends found the cell phone on the railroad tracks behind Armstrong Elementary School, across from the old cheese factory on Pleasant Valley Road. Wanting to return the phone, he scrolled through the contacts and dialed ‘home.'
Having learned that Van Diest never met up with her friends as planned, family and friends phoned the police and started a search party. They were already there, scouring the area in the dark when Const. Milan Ilic arrived.
Soon after he arrived, Ilic heard screaming some distance down the tracks; Van Diest’s friends had found her. Paramedics rushed her to Vernon Jubilee Hospital where a nurse took fingernail clippings from each of her fingers. Three days later, an autopsy showed marks around her neck consistent with strangulation, as well as several blows to the head, likely what killed her.
Caputo said the DNA was matched to Foerster, who was arrested several months later in Collingwood, Ontario. He told the jury that Foerster was interviewed April 6, 2012 by an RCMP investigator. He was asked if he felt bad for killing Taylor and Foerster replied yes. During the interview, the Sergeant said: “You told me you went for sex and if she hadn’t fought you, you wouldn’t have killed her... is that truthful?” Again, Foerster said yes.
The video and audio will likely be shown in court.
Testimony began with Const. Ilic, who described the night from his perspective. The call first came in as a missing person—a girl around 16 or 17 dressed in a zombie costume. Ilic was dispatched to the scene after the cell phone was reported found, and recalls hundreds of trick-or-treaters were on the streets.
When he arrived, two of Van Diest’s friends immediately banged on the windows asking to borrow a flashlight to help in the search. Ilic couldn’t because he only had one. As he was speaking with Van Diest’s mother, Marie, he heard screaming from the two friends who had continued looking. At this point, Ilic had to choke back tears.
“I heard a male’s voice screaming out... Taylor, Taylor, Taylor,” Ilic said. “I heard the kids screaming run, run. I turned around and saw Taylor’s mom running with me.”
The friends had thrown themselves over Van Diest’s body, which was in the ditch. They thought she was breathing, but she wasn’t responsive. Like the friends had done, Ilic placed his jacket overtop of Van Diest while they waited for the ambulance. Ilic noticed a “pretty deep” gash on the left side of Van Diest’s head.
Van Diest was rushed into Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s trauma room where her clothes were removed. Ilic and a fellow officer seized the clothing for evidence.
In cross examination, Helps noted that because everything happened so quickly, Ilic wasn’t able to observe Van Diest for very long before her friends began to assist her. She also pointed out that he didn’t make any observations of Van Diest’s clothing until it was on the floor of the hospital.
The Crown also called Diane Roemer, the sexual assault examiner nurse who collected Van Diest’s fingernails, and two paramedics with B.C. Ambulance.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com or call 250-309-5230.
— This story was edited at 3:24 p.m. to clarify a text message from Van Diest. An earlier version was interpreted as 'being creeped.' Evidence in court says 'being crepped.' Further edits were made at 3:32 p.m. to include information from the afternoon court session.