File photo of Taylor Van Diest. Image: Facebook

B.C. man pleads guilty to 2011 murder of teen

Matthew Foerster will be back in court in April to be sentenced for his crime

Marie Van Diest wore an expression of grim resignation Monday morning as she sat in the gallery of a Vernon courtroom and watched her daughter’s killer plead guilty to second degree murder.

“He’s won,” Van Diest said later of Matthew Foerster taking responsibility of a lesser charge. “ To us he’ll always be guilty of first degree murder—that will never change. We know what he did. We just have to go on with life.”

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 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.”

Raymond Van Diest, Taylor’s dad, said that he also hopes that the judge isn’t lenient.

“He could have helped her,” he said, referring to the hours that Taylor lay on the tracks, suffering from injuries Foerster inflicted. “Whatever happens to him is not enough. He needs to feel the pain of loss …People say it’s a nightmare you never wake up from. It’s worse than that.”

UPDATE: 10:30 a.m.

Matthew Foerster pleaded guilty this morning to second degree murder in the 2011 killing of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest.

Foertser will be back in court in April to be sentenced. That’s when Taylor Van Diest’s mother Marie, hopes the courts will get tough.

Outside of the Vernon courthouse, she said she’s been told that Crown and defense lawyers have agreed upon a sentence of 17 years but there is a chance the judge can opt to hand down a different sentence.

She said it will always be a first degree murder to her family, saying they know what he did.

But she said there is some relief knowing they won’t have to live through the gruesome details of Taylor’s killing yet again.

Foerster was convicted on the charge in 2014 but the B.C. Court of Appeal granted him a retrial in March 2017.

He was granted a retrial due to two errors in the trial judge’s 2014 charge to the jury that may have affected their decision to find Foerster guilty of first degree murder, not a lesser charge

ORIGINAL:

The man charged in the 2011 murder of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest is scheduled to be in a Vernon courtroom today to enter a plea.

Matthew Foerster has been charged with first degree murder, though the plea he’s scheduled to enter at a Vernon court date later this month is expected to be for a lesser charge.

Taylor’s mother, Marie Van Diest said she met with Crown counsel and was told that they were moving forward with a deal for Foerster to plead guilty to second degree murder.

“We’re very frustrated. We all know what he did,” said Van Diest. “To us, it will always be first degree.”

A sentence related to the lesser plea can vary, but Van Diest has been told that there have been assurances that Foerster will be sentenced for nothing less than 17 years in prison.

RELATED: RETRIAL GRANTED FOR FOERSTER

The plea deal will save the courts a three to four week trial, which was scheduled to start May 28, but that’s of no consolation to the Van Diests.

RELATED: RETRIAL SCHEDULED FOR MAY

“Our justice system needs fixing. Victims and victims families have no control,” she said, adding that sentencing is too weak for those who commit crimes of this level.

Van Diest once spoke at a round table with the Minister of Justice and told her family’s story. At the time a bill to increase the minimum sentence for first degree murder from 25 years to 40 years was being mulled over.

Whether that will happen remains to be seen, but she said something needs to be done.

“Everyone is screaming for change,” she said. “It has to come.”

Taylor Van Diest was assaulted Halloween night 2011, and died in Kelowna General Hospital the next day.

Foerster was convicted on the charge in 2014 but the B.C. Court of Appeal granted him a retrial in March 2017.

He was granted a retrial due to two errors in the trial judge’s 2014 charge to the jury that may have affected their decision to find Foerster guilty of first degree murder, not a lesser charge.

RELATED: FOERSTER GUILTY OF FIRST DEGREE MURDER

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