The Cherryville man who helped his son cover his tracks after he brutally murdered a teenage girl, will spend the next couple of years behind bars.
Stephen Foerster was sentenced to three years in prison, less 336 days of time served, for the charge of accessory after the fact.
The 60-year-old, the court learned Wednesday, went to great lengths to help his son Matthew Foerster escape police scrutiny for five months after his Halloween 2011 slaying of Armstrong teen, Taylor Van Diest. But, said Crown counsel, as he laid out his argument for the sentence, the fact the senior Foerster arranged to plead guilty to the crime shortly after a preliminary hearing worked in his favour.
Justice Peter Rogers agreed to the sentence, which was presented as a joint submission from Crown counsel and defence, noting that if he had his way, he’d have aimed for a slightly longer term of imprisonment.
“Mr. Foerster, knowing that Matthew was a killer, that he killed a defenceless girl, and he killed her at random, (sends) him to Collingwood, Ontario, where, for all he knows, he’ll kill again,” said Rogers, as he rendered the sentence.
“What Matthew Foerster did was just cold and Stephen Foerster knowingly facilitated a cold killer to be at large. That’s worrisome.”
Foerster remained stoic in the prisoner’s box as the proceedings rolled out much of Wednesday morning, but when he was offered an opportunity to speak later that afternoon he took it.
“I would like to apologize to the Van Diest family for prolonging the investigation…they’ve suffered more than anybody should,” Foerster said.
His words didn’t sway Marie Van Diest’s belief that the Foersters lacked remorse for the crimes they committed against her family.
“I felt (the apology) was really pathetic,” the mother of Taylor Van Diest said outside the Kelowna courthouse.
“I think the thing he was sorry for is that he couldn’t go forward with trial, it would have just cost him too much. I think that’s why he decided to plead the way he did. He just didn’t want to fork out any of his dwindling income.”
The Foersters, she said, belong where the courts have sent them.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and in this case it’s true,” she said. “I think that they’re both cowards and they’re both deviants, and neither of them have a place in society.”
Those five months when police searched for Taylor’s killer, she said, were excruciating for both her family and the community at large, which felt their safety stripped.
Crown counsel Chris Balison explained to the court how the elder Foerster, acted swiftly to help his son escape police detection after a sketch of his son was released a month after Taylor died.
Around 1,250 tips were offered to police in the weeks in November 2011, and at least 30 of which pointed to Matthew Foerster.
Some of those tips came from the Foersters’ friends and family, who were also turning to elder Foerster for answers.
“There was certainly no secret in the local area and in the Foerster family…that RCMP were investigating Matthew Foerster,” said Balison.
In one case, Balison said a long-term friend asked Stephen Foerster about his son’s connection to Taylor Van Diest’s murder, and in reply they were told: “If he’s guilty, he’s guilty. If he’s not, he’s not.”
Behind the scenes, Foerster was less blasé, apparently feverishly working to keep his son hidden from police.
In November two women packed up Matthew Foerster’s Lumby apartment, and Stephen went shortly thereafter to collect the boxes.
He asked a long-time friend to help him purchase a new identity for his son, and for $500 he came up with a BCAA card, driver’s licence, old bank card and SIN number that Foerster used to move to Collingwood, Ont.
Once there, the two communicated through two pay-as-you-go mobile phones they’d purchased.
Balison made reference to three calls made through the phones, where the father-son duo discussed use of the purchased identity, the police investigation, methods to avoid detection and eventually plans to buy a second new identity.
The type of pressure they were facing from police was also outlined in those conversations.
Foerster found a tracking device on one of the family cars and the police were regularly dropping in with questions.
They were both arrested on the same day in April 2012, Stephen at his Cherryville home and Matthew in Collingwood, ON.
Matthew is serving a life sentence without opportunity for parole for the next 25 years.
Stephen started his sentence immediately. He will have to submit his DNA to the national registry and pay a victim’s surcharge.