December 17, 2014 - 12:07 PM
KELOWNA - Seven years before Matthew Foerster murdered Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest, he snuck into a young Cherryville woman’s home, knocked her head against a wall and told her to come with him.
Details about the 2004 assault, and a subsequent attack involving a sex-trade worker in 2005, were revealed during a sentence hearing in Kelowna Provincial Court Dec. 17. The 28-year-old, who is currently serving a life sentence for the first degree murder of Van Diest, pleaded guilty to both files.
Judge Mark Takahashi called the offenses egregious and violent, but said they were mitigated by Foerster’s age, lack of a criminal record at the time of the offenses, and guilty pleas, which saved the victims the torment of a trial. Takahashi accepted a joint submission from Crown and defense lawyers calling for a six-year jail sentence on both cases, to be served at the same time as each other, and concurrently with his life sentence. Foerster, who is being held in a maximum security prison with 21-hour-a-day lock up, will see no new time behind bars, however he will be placed on the sexual offender registry for life.
Crown counsel Iain Currie described the attacks in detail during the hearing. At 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 19, 2004, a 19-year-old Cherryville woman, present in court for the hearing, was awoken by a man grabbing her and knocking her head against her bedroom wall. He called her by her first name and told her to come with him.
While his face was masked, the woman thought she recognized her assailant as a fellow Cherryville citizen and a friend of her younger brother’s. He had what appeared to be a handgun tucked into his pants and when she asked what he wanted, he said he wanted her. Crying, panicking and bleeding from her head, the woman screamed and said she was going to pass out. That’s when the man left.
The victim spoke to police and told them she thought the man was Foerster, who was 18 at the time. Lumby RCMP questioned Foerster, but apparently did not accept the identification evidence from the victim. Foerster’s father insisted on sitting in on the police interview and said he was with him around the time of the offense, giving him the alibi he needed, Currie said.
A few months later, in 2005, Foerster visited the Garden of Eden, an escort agency in Kelowna. The lone female employee gave him a tour of the premises, and when they got to an upstairs room, Foerster grabbed her by the pony-tail and dragged her to the ground. If she cooperated, she wouldn’t get hurt, he said, holding a knife to her throat while she performed fellatio. When she finished, he made her lie face down on a massage table and penetrated her anally, leaving lacerations later found by a doctor. He left her in the room with her hands bound behind her with duct tape.
The woman freed herself with the help of a woman working next door and reported the assault to police. Her assailant’s DNA was swabbed and stored in the national data bank for six years.
When 18-year-old Van Diest was attacked and killed by Foerster in October 2011, she scratched him and his DNA was left under her fingernail. That DNA was matched with the sample taken from the sex-trade worker, who met with an RCMP sketch artist to produce a drawing of her attacker.
“The composite drawing was widely publicized and several people identified Matthew Foerster, the offender before the court, as a suspect,” Currie said.
In a police interrogation following his arrest in Collingwood, Ontario, Foerster said the gun he had in the home invasion was a BB gun. He said he knew the victim, and liked her, but didn’t think things would work out between them.
He also said he didn’t want to hurt the sex-trade worker; he just wanted her to do what was on his mind that day.
“It’s like another... person took over me,” Foerster said in the interview.
The Cherryville woman targeted in the 2004 home invasion chose to read a victim impact statement to the court as part of Foerster’s sentence hearing.
“On the day I was attacked I woke up and blood was coming out of my head. I remember there was so much blood it covered my body. I was in a lot of pain and I was very disoriented. I’ve never been so scared in my life,” she said.
Due to the physical and emotional impacts, she now requires extensive support from her family. She grew depressed, distrustful and feared being alone.
“I was forced to move on with my life knowing this person was still on the streets,” she said.
Even counselling will never allow her to completely heal, she said.
Foerster’s lawyer, Lisa Jean Helps, said her client is involved in a rehabilitative program in prison. She said his guilty plea saved the victims the difficulty of a trial, and noted that could be taken as an expression of his remorse.
Takahashi issued a lifetime firearms prohibition and no contact order with either of the victims in addition to the six years. He waived the victim fine surcharge because Foerster is in custody and paying it would be a hardship. Foerster was not given an opportunity to speak at the end of the hearing.
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.
—This story was edited at 12 p.m. Dec. 17 to include full details from the hearing.
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