ARMSTRONG - Talking about her death is never easy, the uncle of slain teen Taylor Van Diest says. But around Halloween, the anniversary of her death, it hurts more than ever.
Van Diest, 18, loved Halloween and left home Oct. 31, 2011 dressed up as a zombie. She was on her way to meet with friends, but she never made it. On her way, she was attacked, beaten, and left for dead on the railway tracks behind Armstrong Elementary School.
Matthew Foerster, 27, of Cherryville, was arrested five months later in Collingwood, Ontario and charged with her murder. His trial is expected to begin in March, 2014.
“It’s hard... It’s still hard,” Paul Albert says, fighting back tears. “It (Halloween) is just another reminder. Hopefully when the trial is over and done with we don’t have to break down like this.”
It’s all he can manage to say.
This week, Taylor’s mom and twin sister, among other family and supporters, have been sitting in on the preliminary hearing for Foerster’s father, who is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Calling it a rough week would be an understatement.
Taylor’s death cast a shadow not only over her family, but over the small town of Armstrong as well.
“So many people said how could this happen in Armstrong?” resident and long time family friend Dorianne Kohl says. “It’s been a community filled with happy families, the arts. To have that happen here was such a blow to the community. It left a scar.”
But instead of shying away from the horror, Kohl believes it’s crucial to confront it head on. She’s inviting the community to join in the second annual candle-lit walk for Taylor Thursday night at 6 p.m. beginning at the Armstrong Museum and Art Gallery.
“I think it’s extremely important because it helps to heal rather than people pushing it aside or stuffing it down saying it’s too horrible to think about,” Kohl says.
The walk is also about showing support for Taylor’s family, Kohl says. Last year about 200 people joined the procession along what is now the Taylor Jade Van Diest Memorial Trail.
“The trail was rocky and rough then,” Kohl says. “It’s amazing to see the gift it has become.”
At one time, Kohl and the Van Diests were neighbours. She remembers reading stories to Taylor and her twin sister Kirstie when they were young.
“They played in the willow trees in the back. They named them grandmother and grandfather willow,” Kohl says. “I was deeply affected by the tragedy, as were most people in town. Everyone I think.”
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