Armstrong teen suffered numerous, potentially fatal injuries

Marie Van Diest spoke to reporters outside the Kelowna courthouse on day two of Matthew Foerster
Marie Van Diest spoke to reporters outside the Kelowna courthouse on day two of Matthew Foerster's murder trial. Van Diest's daughter Taylor was found fatally injured on train tracks near their Armstrong home Halloween night, 2011.
— image credit: Kathy Michaels/staff reporter

Matthew Foerster admitted he caused the injuries that killed an Armstrong teenager in 2011, but the nature of those wounds and how they were inflicted was scrutinized in a Kelowna courtroom as his murder trial continued.

Tasked Wednesday with explaining the trail of medical evidence left on Talyor Van Diest's body was Dr. John David Stefanelli.

Stefanelli, a forensic pathologist who works out of Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops,  conducted the autopsy on Van Diest Nov. 3, 2011, the jury heard.

He told the court that other than "traumatic injuries" the  18-year-old   looked to be a fit, young, healthy person.

Van Diest, however, suffered a long list of traumatic injuries Halloween 2011 and any number of which could have caused  her death, said Stefanelli.

Ultimately,  he concluded it was a severe head trauma that killed the 18-year-old.

Stefanelli counted six separate gashes, measuring around five-centimeters long apiece. They started at  the back of the five-foot-four girl's head, and stopped near the top.

It looked like a "series of strikes that happened all to the same area," Stefanelli said, noting later that he believed the object that caused the damage was metal.

"The person was standing in the same position for all of the blows."

Each potential strike left its mark, but the sixth was particularly violent.

"The force of the blow has caused the scalp to tear," he said, adding that the skull had broken into a number of small pieces in that area.

Below those wounds was where the real damage was done.

Van Diest's brain was bleeding in several areas due to the injuries she sustained. Both on the top from the force levelled against her, and in front, from where the blows would have caused her brain to rub against her facial bones.

Van Diest suffered a number of less serious wounds as well.

There was bruising around the eye, that extended across her nose and a laceration above one of her eyelids.

"Something solid caused the bruising that tore her eye," he said. "It could have happened with one blow."

There were two hemorrhages on her eye that Stefanelli said he believed to be caused by strangulation.

Further evidence of strangulation was the ligature wounds on Van Diest's neck.

"Something was wrapped around her neck and pulled tight," he said.

Two thin lines were displayed in photos for the jury, and Stefanelli said he couldn't be sure what caused them.

Whatever it was, Stefanelli said Van Diest fought to remove it, as fingernail marks scratched her neck around the ligature marks.

There were also defensive wounds on her forearms and hands.

Responding to questions posed by Crown Counsel Iain Currie, Stefanelli painted a tumultuous, violent end for Van Diest.

When defence lawyer Lisa Jean Helps was offered her turn, an alternate picture was presented.

Helps asked if the metal pipe that Van Diest was found lying against could have caused some of the injuries.

Stefanelli agreed that it was possible, if Van Diest had fallen on it from an upright position.

Helps also turned her attention to the ligature marks.

Asking that a bloodied bra be brought from an evidence bag, she asked if it was feasible that it could have caused the ligature marks.

Stefanelli said the straps were of similar size to the marks left.

Helps also asked if it was possible that there was more than one possible weapon, and the marks on Van Diest's head could represent "one injury over laying another."

Stefanelli said it was.

Helps's questions gave further shape to what Foerster's defence may eventually look like.

With the Tuesday admissions that Foerster did cause the injuries that killed Van Diest, that it was his DNA under her nails as well as her DNA in his truck, indications are that Foerster is looking for the lesser manslaughter conviction.

Justice Peter Rogers  earlier told the jury it might have to consider whether  Foerster could have formed the intent necessary for murder if he was intoxicated, while Helps requested that a vodka bottle found near the teenager's body be entered as a trial exhibit.

Further admissions

In addition to Tuesday's admission regarding responsibility, Crown Counsel Iain Currie entered three more pieces of evidence that were endorsed by defence lawyer Lisa Helps.

Setting out a timeline, Currie entered a photo of Van Diest in her Halloween costume, before she left her house, at 5:45 p.m. Oct. 31, 2011 The next admission detailed Foerster’s cell phone records.

Records show Foerster used his phone Oct. 31, 2011 on a path fromVernon, through Armstrong, onto Enderby and into Lumby.

Calls were bounced off towers in Armstrong between 3:45 p.m. and 4:46 p.m. He didn't make another call until he went to Enderby at 5:28 p.m. The  phone wasn't used again until 8:35 p.m. in Lumby.

The third admission detailed the activity on Van Diest’s cell phone. Her last text message was sent at 6:01 p.m. and it read “being crepped [sic]." Another sat in the draft queue.

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