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Murder trial begins

Video by Jen Zielinski

Taylor's mom, Marie, speaks to the media outside the courthouse on the first day of the trial.

The Matthew Foerster first-degree murder trial began today (Monday) at the Kelowna Courthouse in front of a packed house.

Around two dozen friends and family members of murdered teen Taylor Van Diest filled one half of the courtroom, along with many members of the media who are also paying close attention to this trial.

Crown prosecutors Iain Currie and Frank Caputo outlined their case to the jury, setting the scene in Armstrong at 6 p.m. on Halloween night, 2011.

They say Taylor texted her boyfriend, saying that she was being “crept on”. One minute later she attempted to send another text message with the single word “holly”, but that text was never sent.

Police know as much, because they recovered her cell phone later that night, discarded along the same railroad tracks where her body was found a few hours later. According to the Crown, that second message was saved into the outgoing draft messages on her phone.

The first officer on scene was Crown witness Cst. Milan Ilic, who told the court he initially heard a report come across his radio of a missing teenage girl wearing a zombie costume. He then learned that a cell phone had been found.

Upon arriving near the section of railroad tracks between Rosedale Avenue and Pleasant Valley Road, he began a foot patrol of the area along with Taylor’s mom Marie and others who were already at the scene.

Members of the group soon discovered her body, approximately eight feet from the tracks near some bushes.

Taylor was found sprawled out on her stomach, with the left side of her head leaning against a large steel pipe. Cst. Ilic told the court her right eye was open and twitching and her mouth was gasping for breath.

He covered her with his coat, but did not perform any first aid at the time and waited for paramedics who responded within minutes. He says Marie offered words of encouragement to her daughter such as, “You’re going to make it. You’ll survive.”

Cst. Ilic told the court that he didn’t notice any injuries at first, but once Taylor was rolled over he noticed a deep wound to her head and three ligature marks on her neck.

“At that point I could see a gash on the side of her head,” he explained, noting it was about the size of a quarter, and quite large.

One of the paramedics who arrived on scene was Graham Bain. He says Taylor had a faint pulse on her neck, with a deep wound to her head that showed some inner tissue.

At first glance, he thought she had a fractured skull. He also told the court about bruising found on Taylor’s arms, and possibly her chin, but it was difficult to tell through the Halloween makeup.

Bain was also concerned about the metal pipe on which Taylor’s body was found, saying it could have been a penetrating injury, but in hindsight referred to it as a “red herring”.

The court also heard from Kay Roemer, a registered nurse in Vernon who is trained in sex assaults. She took the stand and told of her time in the trauma center when Taylor was brought into the Vernon Jubilee hospital.

Roemer says all she knew at the time was that Taylor had been a victim of assault, and a possible sex assault. She told the court how she cut Taylor’s fingernails, in the hopes of finding DNA evidence.

During the Crown’s opening remarks, it was mentioned that Foerster’s DNA was found under Taylor’s fingernails, but that evidence has not yet been presented to the court. There is also an interview with police after Foerster was arrested in April, 2012 where he allegedly admits to killing her, and that is also expected to be presented during the trial.

Outside the courthouse during a lunch break, Marie Van Diest spoke with reporters, saying how relieved she is that the trial is finally underway.

“Tensions are running pretty high of course, nerves are shot, but I’m hoping as time goes I can learn to cope with it a little easier,” she said.

“It’s going into the unknown, that’s the hardest part.”

Marie also admitted difficulty sitting through the events one more time, calling it “re-traumatizing”, but smiled when asked what type of girl Taylor had been.

“Taylor was an awesome, awesome girl. She was loved by so many people – friends, family. Anyone who first met her instantly fell for her; she had a way about her. She was a chameleon in being able to deal with anyone.”

The trial is expected to last for several weeks and Foerster has pleaded not guilty to the single count of first-degree murder. His defence team of Lisa Helps and articling student Camille Cook are expected to present their evidence sometime next week.

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