Marie Van Diest believes her family can finally direct its anger at a face.
The mother of murdered Armstrong teenager Taylor Van Diest was reacting to news that RCMP had arrested not one, but two individuals in connection with the death of her daughter Halloween night, and that a photo of the man suspected of killing her daughter was being released by police.
“Today is a day with mixed emotions,” said Marie Van Diest, accompanied by Taylor’s twin sister, Kirstie, and her brother, Paul Albert, after RCMP announced the arrests before a crowd of media, family, friends and politicians, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder, four rows deep, at Armstrong council chambers Thursday afternoon.
Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick, operations officer for B.C. RCMP’s major crime section, told the gallery that two individuals were arrested in connection with the homicide of Taylor Van Diest, 18, Oct. 31, 2011 in Armstrong.
Van Diest, who had dressed up in a zombie costume, was found brutally injured near the railway tracks by Rosedale Avenue by family and friends after she failed to meet friends for Halloween night festivities. She died later that night in Kelowna General Hospital.
Fitzpatrick announced that Matthew Stephen Foerster, 26, a former resident of Cherryville, is facing a charge of second degree murder in connection with the death of Van Diest.
Fitzpatrick said Foerster was arrested without incident shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday at a motel in Collingwood, Ont.
Foerster’s father, Stephen Roy Foerster, 58, of Cherryville, has been charged with obstruction of justice and accessory after the fact to murder in connection with Van Diest’s death.
He was arrested Wednesday at 2:20 p.m. at his residence.
Both men remain in custody.
Matthew Foerster will be brought back to B.C. to face charges.
“While arrests have been made, the investigation is ongoing,” said Fitzpatrick, who credited the “tireless and dedicated efforts of the RCMP officers, laboratory scientists, analysts, behavioural profilers support staff and other police agencies” in helping to make an arrest.
Police received more than 1,250 tips which Fitzpatrick said generated a significant amount of information.
“Much work and investigation remains to be done,” he said. “We are extending our request for the assistance from the public and the media today in uncovering more information.”
Investigators are trying to establish a detailed timeline of Matthew Foerster’s activities on the day and night of Oct. 31, 2011, and have released photos of the suspect.
“We’d like to hear from anyone who has not already spoken to investigators about any contact they had with him on Halloween night,” said Fitzpatrick.
People are asked to call the dedicated tip line at 1-888-688-4264 if they have any information.
The Van Diest family praised the work of the RCMP.
“We express a heartfelt thank you and gratitude to the RCMP and the whole team of investigators for their perseverance and dogged determination,” said Marie Van Diest.
Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper said Thursday was a special day for the Van Diest family, the community and society in general.
“Five months and five days ago, we woke up to hear about the terrible tragedy in our community,” said Pieper. “Today, we take another step in the long stairway to justice.”
Police, during this investigation, released a composite drawing of a suspect in connection with a sexual assault of a Kelowna woman in 2005, stating DNA from that case was found in the Van Diest investigation.
One person took responsibility for Van Diest’s death in an anonymous letter to RCMP, but Fitzpatrick did not say who wrote the letter, only that it remains part of the investigation.
Fitzpatrick said as matters are now before the court, he would not go into specifics on how Foerster was arrested, how he came to be in Ontario or what led RCMP directly to him.
Fitzpatrick did say there was no evidence linking Van Diest to Foerster.
These allegations have not been proved in any court, and Matthew and Stephen Foerster are presumed to be innocent.