Marie Van Diest, right, leaves Vernon Law Courts June 4 after the beginning of the sentencing hearing for Matthew Foerster, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in relation to the death of Taylor Van Diest in 2011. The hearing will continue at 11 a.m. June 5. (Parker Crook/Morning star)

Man gets life with no parole for 17 years in B.C. teen’s Halloween murder

Matthew Foerster convicted of the 2011 murder of Taylor Van Diest, family hopes for peace to come

Marie Van Diest hopes life will become peaceful again she said outside Vernon Law Courts Tuesday after Matthew Foerster received a life sentence with no chance of parole for 17 years.

Thick-rimmed glasses framed Foerster’s eyes, which were glued forward as he sat without moving when Justice Brenda Brown handed down the sentence in relation to the murder of Marie’s daughter, Taylor Van Diest, on Oct. 31, 2011. Sitting opposite the Van Diest family, Foerster’s mother wiped away tears when the sentence was read.

“I’m just sick of feeling this torment, torture. Just going to have to keep going the way we are, but I think we’re doing all right,” Marie Van Diest said.

Foerster pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder in connection with the killing of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest in 2011. Foerster was convicted of first-degree murder in 2014, but the Court of Appeal granted a retrial in 2017 based on an error in the trial judge’s instructions to the jury.

Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson said that because Foerster pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a joint submission was presented and accepted by Justice Brown Tuesday morning, there will be no more appeals. And for Marie Van Diest, that news comes with relief.

“We’re done. We’re done for now. I don’t think I could take any more,” Marie Van Diest said.

“You can’t put a price or any sort of comment that would be suited to the loss of a loved one. There are no words that can describe it. I know many have tried, but I think everyone falls short when it comes to really divulging the feelings that a person goes through day after day after day.”

As the family continues its healing process, so too does the City of Armstrong, which is still recovering from the murder, the family and fellow Armstrong residents said.

“I think it’s returning to the quiet, lackadaisical town it was. People forget over the years. They move on to the next tragedy and the next tragedy. There are so many of them. It’s all we’re bombarded with these days it seems is tragedy after tragedy,” Marie Van Diest said.

At the sentencing hearing that started June 4, McPherson said that the murder of Van Diest altered the fabric of Armstrong for many.

“It has so adversely affected behaviours, trust, the entire nature of the small town of Armstrong, B.C.,” he said to a gallery of about 30.

In her victim impact statement, Armstrong resident Dorianne Kohl attested to that fact saying that grief “swept through citizens of the community like wildfire.”

“It is a deep wound which created fear, and distrust among us. As a community, we have been scarred by the vicious attack.We continue to be haunted by this tragedy,” Kohl said.

Van Diest had been walking to a Halloween party in Armstrong when she was attacked by Foerster near the railway tracks on Rosedale Avenue. Efforts were made to revive Van Diest, however, she later died of her injuries in Kelowna General Hospital on Nov. 1.

“She was killed by Mr. Foerster and the cause of death was multiple blunt-force trauma wounds to the back of the head,” McPherson said.

Related: Foerster pleads guilty to second-degree murder of Armstrong teen

“She was still alive when she was found.”

Van Diest, who was 18-years-old, had texted friends prior to the altercation, which the Crown suggested occurred at approximately 6 p.m. The contents of those text messages, McPherson said, were considered normal topics of conversation, until a text sent at 6:01 p.m. said that she was “being creeped.”

“That text message is the last communication Van Diest ever sent,” McPherson said.

Foerster was arrested in Ontario on April 4 in relation to the murder. He later confessed to hitting Van Diest multiple times with a flashlight.

“The killing itself was brutal, there’s no other way to describe it,” McPherson said. “He viciously hit Van Diest with the flashlight. It is not an exaggeration or hyperbole to say Foerster left her there to die.”

Court heard that Van Diest and Foerster had never met prior to that night.

“These facts represent really the most terrifying act imaginable: murder by a complete stranger,” McPherson said.

Van Diest’s mother recounted the last night she saw her daughter alive in her statement.

“I tell them I love them and to be safe,” Marie Van Diest said. “Little did I know Oct. 31 would be the last time I said this to Taylor.

“The hardest thing I ever had to do as a mother was to tell her twin sister Taylor is gone. There will always remain an empty chair where Taylor should have sat.”

Defence lawyer Ken Beatch said, at the time of the incident, Foerster was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and had consumed vodka, beer, mushrooms and marijuana earlier that day.

“All his criminal activity has been fuelled by drugs and alcohol,” Beatch said.

“When one first looks at this case, the first impression one has is that this is probably one of the worst cases one has seen. When one sits down with Foerster… there are many mitigating factors.”

Beatch said Foerster has taken rehabilitative steps since the murder, including sobriety since his arrest, participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and three separate integrated correctional programs.

“All of his offences were shrouded in a cloud of alcohol and drugs,” Beatch said.

However, McPherson said that this instance and two other matters for which Foerster was imprisoned are extreme results of alcohol or drug dependency.

While they cannot be used as evidence in this matter, Justice Brown agreed with McPherson who said Foerster’s past crimes denote a history of violence towards women.

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.

Foerster is serving a six-year jail sentence on both cases.

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.

Since his arrest, Foerster has been downgraded to a medium-security inmate. Beatch said, in time, he will be classified as a minimum-security inmate.

“He is motivated to change. He does not want to be that person,” Beatch said. “He regrets that day every day and has done so since then. This is a man who feels remorse, deep remorse.”

Clad in blue jeans, a blue-collared shirt and white sneakers, Foerster stood, moving for the first time since the sentencing hearing began, to offer an apology to the family Monday.

“I’m so sorry that I have taken your loved one,” Foerster said, reading from a written apology. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel regret. I wish more than anything I could take back what I did.”

From his apology and facts presented by Beatch, Justice Brown accepted that Foerster feels remorse.

Marie Van Diest, however, said the apology felt hollow.

“Not once did he mention Taylor’s name,” Marie Van Diest said.

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.

“This has created a gaping wound within me,” Marie Van Diest said during her victim impact statement. “This sentencing is merely an act of adding salt to that wound.”

Foerster will be eligible to apply for parole April 4, 2029, 17 years after his arrest. With the faint hope clause, Foerster can apply for a reduction of parole ineligibility April 4, 2027. It is then up to the parole board to decide whether or not parole is granted.


@VernonNews
parker.crook@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Matthew Foerster will appear to continue the sentencing hearing in Vernon Supreme Court June 5. (File photo)

Comments are closed

Just Posted

West Kelowna to hire eight more firefighters

The city looks to solve what they are calling a critical shortage of firefighters

Kelowna RCMP look to reunite stamp collection with owner

The stamp collection was handed to RCMP in Oct.

Kelowna RCMP search for speed-slowing cut out

The cut out of Const. Warren Ning has been allegedly taken from A.S. Matheson Elementary School

Battling winter blues, depression and SAD after the holidays

Kick the blues on ‘Blue Monday’ that is supposedly the most depressing day of the year

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

Man charged in 7-Eleven fire in Shuswap granted bail

Accused facing arson charges released with 23 conditions including a 7 p.m. curfew

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Most Read