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Vernon  

The Van Diest murder suspect

Castanet's Kelly Hayes reports.

RCMP have identified a suspect in the Halloween murder of Armstrong teen Taylor Van Diest.

Police made the announcement during a press conference Wednesday afternoon in the Vernon City Council Chambers.

The unidentified man is also wanted for an April 12, 2005 sexual assault in Kelowna.

Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says the sexual assault occurred inside the Garden of Eden, on Lawrence Avenue.

The woman was an employee of the Garden of Eden Escort Agency.

Castanet spoke with an employee of the Garden of Eden. She says the new owner has only had the business for four years and doesn't know the woman involved.

They were contacted by the police Wednesday morning, but other than that know nothing about the case.

Moskaluk says they were able to link together the murder of Van Diest and the sexual assault through DNA. However, they do not have the outright identity of the suspect at this time. 

At the time of the sexual assault, six years ago, the man was described as being Caucasian, 19 to 20 years of age (25 to 26 now), with a darker skin tone, brown eyes and short dark hair.

He stood 5' 8" to 5' 10", had a stocky build but not particularly fit or muscular, had large distinct sideburns and thick eyebrows.

"We do believe the suspect is a resident of the Okanagan Valley. We believe he was a resident of the Okanagan in the spring of 2005 and he was still a resident on Halloween night of this year," says Moskaluk.

"It's quite possible that he was outside of the valley area between the period of time between 2005 and 2011. We also believe that friends, family of associates of this man hold valuable information which would help solve these two crimes."

Anyone who has information on the suspect or any other information pertaining to the murder of Taylor Van Diest is asked to call the dedicated tip line 1-888-688-4264.

"We ask residents of the Okanagan to think back to the days just prior to Taylor's murder on Halloween night to see if they recall some form of conflict or personal upset on the day or days leading up to Halloween," adds Moskaluk, about the suspect.

"This may include financial pressures, relationship pressures, job loss or other serious life stressors that may have manifested themselves visibly. This young man may have also had unexplained scratches to his face, neck or arms as a result of the contact with Taylor Van Diest."

Moskaluk says there may also have been noticeable changes to the suspect's routine including missed appointments for school, work or personal commitments.

He says there may have also been a noticeable change in his mood on or around Halloween night which may have included a withdrawal or loss of interest in his usual activities, changes in appetite, changes in sleep patterns, increased use of alcohol or drugs or changes in personal grooming habits.

Van Diest's body was discovered near railway tracks in Armstrong at 8:45 on Halloween night.

Police say she left her home at about 5:50 p.m.

It is believed she walked north on Pleasant Valley Road for about 10 minutes to the railroad tracks.

The last contact she had with friends or family was a text message at 6 p.m.

She was dressed up as a zombie.



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