Schlatter found guilty of first-degree murder in death of Tess Richey
TORONTO -- WARNING: This story contains graphic details that might be disturbing to some readers
The man accused of sexually assaulting and strangling 22-year-old Tess Richey just hours after meeting her in November 2017 has been found guilty of first-degree murder in her death.
Jurors at 23-year-old Kalen Schlatter’s murder trial reached the verdict after three days of deliberations.
The Crown previously told the court that Schlatter sexually assaulted and strangled Richey in an outdoor stairwell of a building under renovation near Church and Dundonald streets in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2017.
Video surveillance footage captured that morning showed Schlatter and Richey walking hand-in-hand down a laneway toward the exterior stairwell shortly after 4 a.m.
Schlatter was seen walking back down the laneway alone about 45 minutes later.
Richey’s lifeless body was found at the bottom of the stairwell on Nov. 29, four days after she was reported missing by her family.
The discovery was made by Richey’s mother and a family friend, who were frantically searching the neighbourhood to find her.
Schlatter’s semen and saliva were found on Richey’s clothing, jurors previously heard.
Schlatter, who testified in his own defence, maintained that the sexual encounter with Richey was consentual and his defence lawyers actually accused another man of killing Richey after Schlatter left.
Prosecutors said Schlatter killed Richey after she refused to have sex with him.
Schlatter met Richey and one of her friends outside Crews and Tangos in the city's Church-Wellesley Village after the bar let out on the morning she was killed.
The three wandered around the area for a couple of hours, picking up hot dogs and chatting with people in the neighbourhood.
Shortly after her friend left, Richey ordered an Uber to go home but the ride was later cancelled by the driver when she didn't show up.
Schlatter told the court that he didn't know Richey had ordered an Uber and maintained that she was alive when he left her in the stairwell that morning.
That assertion was contradicted by one of Schlatter's former cellmates, who told the jury that Schlatter confided in him about the murder.
He said Schlatter told him he choked Richey to death with a scarf and then ejaculated on her body.
According to the cellmate, Schlatter told him that when it was over, he stole a necklace from Richey and took money from her purse for a cab ride home.
As the verdit was handed down, Schlatter showed no emotion until after the judge left the room. He then collapsed into his chair with his lawyers surrounding him. Shlatter could be seen weeping with his head in his hands.
Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Ted Lioumanis spoke to reporters following the verdict and thanked the members of the jury for their service.
"Kalen Schlatter is a predator, he’s a murderer and I want the jury to know, again, that they made the right decision and justice was served," Lioumanis said.
'We won': Richey's mother reacts to guilty verdict
Speaking from outside the courthouse, Tess Richey's mother Christine Hermeston said she was "shocked" when the verdict was handed down.
“I have to admit, I didn’t expect murder in the first degree,” Hermeston said. “ I wanted it, I hoped for it, I prayed for it, but you know, you just don’t know how these things can play out, right?”
“We won. Tess got her justice. We’ll never be happy. We’ll never be complete again, but we can try to heal from here and do things in Tess’ name. Thank you for all the support. It’s been a rough road, but we made it.”
Sentencing is scheduled to take place on March 25.