There was no evidence of sexual assault found during Taylor Van Diest’s autopsy, according to pathologist Dr. John Stefanelli, who took the stand for much of the third day at Matthew Foerster’s first-degree murder trial.
That testimony was heard during Wednesday’s afternoon session, under cross-examination from defence counsel Lisa Helps. It carried over from the morning where Stefanelli went through his autopsy report that listed blunt force trauma as Taylor’s cause of death on Halloween night 2011.
Stefanelli also told the court that ligature marks found on Taylor’s neck were most likely caused by a long, thin, flexible piece of rope or string. However there were no identifiable marks to show what object may have been used.
Only two other witnesses took the stand on Wednesday, both of whom say they heard at least one scream come from near the railroad tracks in Armstrong on Halloween night, around 6 p.m. Neither witness thought much of it at the time, passing it off as part of the usual sounds heard on Halloween.
Three more admissions were also heard Wednesday afternoon relating to both Foerster’s and Van Diest's cell phones and call records, and the time when she left her home on Oct. 31 at 5:45 p.m.
As more evidence is agreed upon as admissions of fact, the 12-person jury’s role will boil down to the question of intent, and deciphering whether Foerster actually intended to kill her.
He is currently charged with first-degree murder, and for all the jury members to come to that conclusion, they must agree that he planned to kill Taylor, or that her death was caused as part of a sexual assault.
If intent cannot be agreed upon, then a lesser charge such as manslaughter would be considered.
Taylor’s father Raymond Van Diest says it has been a painful past few days listening to testimony, and he believes the first-degree murder charge must stick.
“Having things gone as far as they have with him, first the strangulation, and then whatever he used to bash her head in,” he said with a brief pause.
“If it had stopped there, maybe I could be a little more relaxed about it. But to take it to the next level, it’s like ‘Ok you’ve made a mistake’ you realize that, walk away. You made a mistake, it didn’t work for you, but you carry on?
“There’s intent right there. There’s no doubt about it.”