Update -- 3:30 p.m.
During sentencing submissions for Stephen Foerster, the Crown contended that he lied to police about the location of his son for five months as the RCMP rigorously conducted their investigation into the death of Armstrong teenager Taylor Van Diest.
While the RCMP attempted to located Matthew, his father purchased him a new identity, counselled him on how to avoid detection by authorities, and was in the process of obtaining a second new ID when the pair were arrested on opposite ends of the country in April of 2012.
Suspicions began to fall on Matthew Foerster once police released a sketch of a man looking similar to him. The media quickly picked this up and the RCMP soon had 30 tips matching the description. As rumours began to circulate through the Cherryville community, the RCMP made numerous attempts to talk with the Foerster family. They went to their homes and places of work, and spoke with Matthew’s landlord and previous employers.
At one point, two longtime friends of Stephen called him up and asked about the sketch. Stephen is said to have responded, “If he’s guilty, he’s guilty. If he’s not, then he’s not.”
Crown counsel Chris Balison said Matthew had been renting an outbuilding in Lumby at the time of Taylor Van Diest’s murder, and told his landlord that he would be moving out in early December.
Stephen picked up his son’s possessions one day and then promptly quit his own job as a truck driver for Ace Courier right around the same time. Balison says Stephen’s boss stopped by the house to drop off his final paycheque and also asked about Matthew, to which Stephen responded, “It’s up to a judge to decide.”
Also in December 2011 the Crown says Stephen attempted, and was able to buy personal identification from family friend, Lee Shawcross, whose father had been close to the elder Foerster.
He paid $500 for a driver’s license, bankcard, BCAA card and also his social insurance number. Later Shawcross also provided ‘stuffers’ or receipts and other typical things found in a person’s wallet. Neither Shawcross (dad or son) was said to have known the real reason why Foerster had asked for these items.
Before he left town, Matthew drove to Kamloops on December 4 and bought two pre-paid cell phones with additional airtime. He also asked for Alberta area codes, which the Crown says correlates with Stephen’s claims that Matthew was working in northern Alberta.
The RCMP were then able to intercept calls made between father and son, and that’s how they discovered Matthew had been living in Collingwood, Ont.
Three of the calls made between March and April 2012 were of significance the court heard, including conversations about Stephen attempting to get new identification for his son.
Transcripts of these calls provided to the court also highlighted conversations about Matthew’s attempts to find employment, Stephen discovering a tracking device on his wife’s car, and his reminders to Matthew about making changes to his fake SIN number and the possibility of getting new phones in case the police got too close.
Two days after that last conversation Matthew was arrested on April 4th 2012, at a motel in Collingwood. Stephen was arrested that same day at his home in Cherryville.
During a lunch break in Wednesday’s sentencing, both Balison and defence counsel Joe Deuling came to an agreement on a joint three-year submission. With the time Stephen served in pre-trial custody following his arrest in 2012 it means he will spend just over two years in a Federal prison.
Justice Peter Rogers chose to go along with the submission, but also said on the record that if left to his own devices, he would have levied a much harsher penalty.
“Stephen knew Matthew was a stone cold killer. He killed a defenceless young lady (and), killed her in a dark location,” said Rogers.
“He settled on this young lady and beat her to death with a flashlight.”
Justice Rogers said in his view, knowing that information about Matthew and still allowing him to go to Ontario and put other girls at risk showed a profound lack of judgment on the part of Stephen as he assisted his son in evading detection and apprehension.
When given the opportunity, Stephen apologized to the Van Diest family, saying they had already suffered more than any family ever should.
UPDATE 2:20 P.M.
In joint submissions Stephen Foerster has been sentenced to three years in prison. More details to come.
Stephen Roy Foerster pleaded guilty Wednesday morning in a Kelowna court.
Foerster was charged with accessory after the fact to murder and obstructing justice in the 2011 death of Taylor Van Diest.
He pled guilty to the accessory charge. The obstruction charge was stayed.
His son, Matthew Foerster, was found guilty last month of first-degree murder in the death of Van Diest. Matthew was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.
The court was told Stephen Foerster helped his son escape by purchasing a fake identity for him for $500 and Crown says Stephen counselled his son how to avoid detection.
Stephen was arranging another identity for Matthew, while his son was in Ontario, when the cops moved in.
The court was told the police were able to locate Matthew by tracing calls he was making on a pre-paid cell phone.
Foerster senior has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1969, including auto theft, drug offenses and escape from custody.
Crown is asking for a sentence of three years.
- With files from Ragnar Haagen