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B.C. man convicted in Armstrong teen’s murder

A memorial of photographs, flowers, stuffed animals and candles at the railway crossing on April 5, 2012, in Armstrong, B.C. This where the body of Taylor Van Diest, 18, was discovered on Halloween in 2011.

Jeff Bassett/The Globe and Mail

Family members of a slain teenaged girl from Armstrong, B.C., wept openly in court as the man charged with her death was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury on Saturday.

Twenty-eight-year-old Matthew Foerster of Cherryville, B.C., pleaded not guilty in the death of 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest but admitted he'd attacked her on Halloween night in 2011.

Jurors started deliberating Foerster's fate on Friday afternoon and came to a decision before noon on Saturday.

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A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

Marie Van Diest, Taylor's mother, said nothing will bring back her daughter, but at least justice was done.

"At least now no other girl will meet the same fate that she met," said Marie Van Diest. "We're just happy that that animal will be off the streets for a very long time."

At Halloween night on 2011 at 6 p.m., Taylor Van Diest was walking to a friend's house dressed as a zombie.

Witnesses found her barely alive at about 8:30 p.m.

Jurors heard evidence that she was lying face down near the railway tracks, her head resting on a steel pipe.

Taylor Van Diest had suffered six blows to the head, a pathologist testified, and one of them fractured her skull and caused a severe brain injury.

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Foerster did not testify and his lawyer did not call any witnesses before wrapping up the case Thursday.

Lisa Helps told the jury that her client's actions amounted to manslaughter, not first-degree murder. She said Foerster wanted to have sex with Van Diest, but when the teen fought back he pushed her down, causing her to hit her head on a steel pipe.

Helps said there could have been a sexual proposition that didn't go very well, but all of that was possibly consensual.

But Crown lawyer Iain Currie said the fact that Foerster hit Van Diest on the head six times with a heavy flashlight, tightened a shoelace around her neck and drove to Vernon, where he threw evidence in a dumpster, leaves little doubt that he intended to kill her.

He said Foerster's DNA was found under one of Van Diest's fingernails and that she'd scratched his neck trying to fend him off.

Currie said Foerster walked behind her and attacked when the teen reached a secluded corridor.

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Foerster's motive was to have sex with her, and when she resisted, he pushed her down and beat her so hard he fractured her hands, Currie said.

He said that instead of looking for consensual sex in a bar or restaurant, Foerster targeted a small, vulnerable teenager in a spot surrounded by trees.

Currie also noted that in a videotaped police statement shown in court, Foerster admitted to killing Van Diest.

RCMP Const. Milan Ilic testified that he met two of Taylor's friends and her mother, Marie Van Diest, by the tracks the night the teen was discovered face down in a ditch off the railway tracks.

Ilic said Taylor Van Diest's friends were holding her on the ground and that the teen was gasping for air but didn't move when he squeezed her leg.

He said the teen's jeans were above her waist, and the left side of her head rested on a steel pipe.

"Taylor's mom went on top of her," he said. "She was like, 'Just fight it. You can make it. You're going to make it. You're going to survive."'

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