Times Colonist

Police use phone to find slain teen near railway tracks

Armstrong resident found badly beaten, still dressed as a zombie for Halloween

- SUSAN LAZARUK

The family of a slain B.C. teenager who died after being found unconsciou­s near some railway tracks knew something was wrong when her text messages stopped coming.

Taylor Van Diest, from the small North Okanagan city of Armstrong, died in hospital Monday night.

Her aunt Anne Mihalcheon said the 18-year-old suffered head injuries.

RCMP are waiting on an autopsy report to release details of how Van Diest was killed.

Van Diest’s family called police on Halloween night after she failed to meet a friend to go trick-or-treating at 7:30 p.m. and wasn’t texting anyone, Mihalcheon said.

“That was the running joke with my sister,” said Mihalcheon, who lives in nearby Vernon. “She used to joke that every time she got a text from Taylor, she was paying for it.”

Mihalcheon said after Van Diest went missing, the family got a call from strangers using the woman’s cellphone after they found it near the tracks. Van Diest’s mother immediatel­y called police.

“They tracked her from where her cellphone was found,” Mihalcheon said.

Family, friends and RCMP officers found the teen lying in the bushes, dressed as a zombie about three metres from the train tracks.

“It’s still a shock,” Mihalcheon said. “She was a great kid.”

The death, which RCMP classified as a homicide Tuesday afternoon, has shaken the community of 10,000.

“This is shocking,” said her uncle Paul Albert. “It was very devastatin­g. For Armstrong? … It’s very horrific.”

Mayor Chris Pieper said the unlit tracks, which are lined by houses on both sides, are a popular shortcut.

The nearby downtown was full of people celebratin­g Halloween when Van Diest was killed, he said.

Van Diest, who graduated from Pleasant Valley Secondary School in June, lived with her parents in Armstrong. She had a twin sister, Kirstie.

In recent Facebook entries, she wrote about looking forward to taking her driver’s test in a week and getting her first tattoo. She also wrote about watching horror movies, taking naps with her dog, feeding ducks, being addicted to solitaire, looking forward to getting a job and recently having had a “pretty friggen awesome night.”

Mihalcheon said the death has left her angry and frightened.

“It scares me for the young people that this person or persons are out there and that makes the whole town fearful,” she said.

“He’s out drinking his coffee and going about his life,” she said.

Pastor Bruce Brown of the Glad Tidings Church said he isn’t worried about the safety of his family.

However, he said he was glad he cautioned his own 15-year-old daughter before she went out trick-or-treating Monday night.

And he wouldn’t consider walking alone along the tracks, he said.

“I wouldn’t say it was unsafe, but freak things happen,” he said.

Pieper said the town was still recovering from the recent loss of two small children in a motorhome fire.

“The people rallied around the family during that tragedy and I’m sure they’ll rally around the family this time,” he said.

 ??  ?? Police search for clues in the area where Taylor Van Diest was fatally injured.
Police search for clues in the area where Taylor Van Diest was fatally injured.
 ??  ?? Taylor Van Diest, 18, died in hospital Monday.
Taylor Van Diest, 18, died in hospital Monday.

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