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Kelowna connection to Armstrong teen murder suspect

Taylor Van Diest murder suspect. - Contributed
Taylor Van Diest murder suspect.
— image credit: Contributed

Police have linked DNA connected to the murder of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest to a sexual assault at a Kelowna escort agency six years earlier.

“Investigators can confirm the match, however they do not have the outright identity of this person at this time,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

“The investigators are working hard to identify this man, and they would appreciate any assistance the public can provide to help them identify this man.”

The suspect’s DNA is not contained within the known offender DNA data bank, but matches a sample collected following a sexual assault at the Garden of Eden April 12, 2005.

Like the Oct. 31 murder of Taylor Van Diest, 18, the Kelowna assault remains unsolved, though police have re-released a composite drawing of the suspect from the 2005 crime and that’s offering new direction in the unsolved cases.

“The suspect is described as a Caucasian man with a darker skin tone. He was described as 19 to 20 years old at the time, making him 25 to 26 today, had dark coloured eyes, possibly brown, with short dark hair.

He’s believe to be somewhere between five-foot-eight and five-foot-10 and has a stocky build, though not particularly fit or muscular.

In 2005, he also had large distinct side burns and noticeably thick eyebrows, but police caution his appearance could have changed in the last six years.

“Immediately following the homicide, this young man may have had unexplained visible scratches to his face, neck or arms,” said Moskaluk.

Police believe the suspect is a resident of the Okanagan, although it remains to be seen if he always was.

“He was a resident of the Okanagan in the spring of 2005, and he was still a resident on Halloween night of this year,” said Moskaluk.

“It is possible he lived outside of the valley for a period of time from 2005 to 2011.”

Police believe that the suspect’s family, friends or associates hold valuable information that will help solve these crimes.

“We ask that residents of the Okanagan think back to the days just prior to Taylor’s murder on Halloween night to see if they recall some form of conflict, or personal upset on the day or days leading up to Halloween,” said Moskaluk. “This may include financial pressures, relationship pressures, job loss or other serious life stressor.”

He may have had changes to his regular routine such as missed appointments or commitments to work or school.

Friends, family and associates may have observed noticeable changes in mood on or around Halloween night, and he may have made a sudden, unplanned or unexplained departure from the area shortly after the Armstrong murder.

Police believe the individual may be financially dependent on others or collecting social assistance.

Anybody with any information is asked to call the random tip line set up for the Van Diest homicide at 1-888-688-4264 or, if you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Moskaluk said police have not heard again from someone who wrote a letter to the Armstrong detachment claiming responsibility for the Van Diest homicide, and threatening more violence against women.

Police again urge North and Central Okanagan residents to remain vigilant and continue to take extra personal safety precautions when they are out in the community.

Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper said there’s still worry in his community.

“It could be one of our own, this guy could live in Armstrong, I don’t know that,” said Pieper. “Everybody will look at the (composite) picture and hopefully somebody will recognize him somewhere along the line.”

 

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