The man who killed an Armstrong teenager on Halloween night 2011 has had his sentencing hearing moved to a later date.
Matthew Foerster will be in a Vernon courtroom June 4 to 6 to be sentenced for second degree murder — a crime he pleaded guilty to last month.
Foerster was convicted of first degree murder in 2014 for the Oct. 31 2011 murder of Taylor Van Diest in Armstrong. The court of appeal granted him a retrial in 2017 based on an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury. That new trial was scheduled for May 2018, though the mother of Foerster’s victim, Marie Van Diest said she knew the plea deal had been struck months ago.
“If we had our choice we’d go back to trial, but that poses a lot of possibilities that are unsavoury,” Van Diest told reporters, while on the courthouse steps. “So this is the way to go for Crown and we have to accept it. I am glad that nobody has to go through the torment and torture of a new trial. We have to come to terms with it, starting now.”
The lesser charge essentially means that while Foerster knew his actions would kill Van Diest, he hadn’t planned it in advance. And, more importantly in this case, he didn’t fatally injure her while trying to sexually assault her—the element Crown would need to prove for a first degree conviction.
In the original trial, Crown told jurors that Foerster had strangled and fatally bludgeoned the teenage girl while he was trying to sexually assault her. To do so, he used Taylor’s own observations as evidence.
The 18-year-old texted a friend that she was “being creeped” as she walked down a secluded path toward a friend’s Halloween gathering—mere hours before she was found lying beside the railway tracks, gravely injured.
And while it could not be offered as evidence during the trial, in sentencing for Van Diest’s murder the court learned of Foerster’s history of sexual aggression.
In 2004, a then 18-year-old Foerster crept into the home of a young Cherryville woman, slammed her head against a wall and told her that he wanted her. He eventually left her alone when she screamed and said she thought she was going to pass out.
In 2005, Foerster went to a Kelowna escort agency, the Garden of Eden. There he grabbed a sex trade worker by the hair and held a knife to her throat while she performed a sexual act. He also bound and raped the woman. This case and Van Diest’s death were linked through DNA.
When Van Diest was attacked she scratched Foerster and his DNA was left under her fingernail. That DNA matched a sample taken from the sex-trade worker, all those years earlier and the cases were forever linked.
Foerster is serving a six-year jail sentence on both cases.
It’s unclear yet what the new charge will add to his current stay behind bars. First degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence. Second degree is more open, and Van Diest has been told that Crown is asking for a minimum of 17 years.
“Our sentence doesn’t change. We’re in this forever,” Van Diest said. “I’m hoping during sentencing that the judge is not at all lenient. Thankfully there was not a joint submission for a sentence …here’s hoping that the judge finds that inadequate and bumps it up to something we can all live with.”