DNA found in connection with the murder of an Armstrong teen on Halloween is a match to a Kelowna sexual assault in 2005.
Like the murder of Taylor Van Diest, 18, on Oct. 31, the Kelowna assault remains unsolved, though police have released a composite drawing of the suspect from the 2005 Kelowna incident.
“As a result of their efforts, the RCMP investigative team have profiled DNA evidence against the person who killed Taylor Van Diest,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk, RCMP spokesperson, at a press conference in Vernon Wednesday. “This DNA is from an unknown male.”
This suspect DNA sample is not contained within the known offender DNA data bank.
Police have also said the attack on Van Diest was random.
“Investigators can confirm the match, however they do not have the outright identity of this person at this time,” said Moskaluk. “The investigators are working hard to identify this man, although they would appreciate any assistance the public can provide to help them identify this man.”
Based on the DNA evidence, police believe the man who killed Taylor Van Diest is the same man who sexually assaulted a Kelowna woman working for an escort service in April 2005.
That sexual assault occurred on April 12, 2005 and was reported to Kelowna RCMP at the time.
“We can confirm that the assault occurred inside the Garden of Eden Escort Agency which was then, and still is, located in the downtown area of Kelowna,” said Moskaluk. “The victim was an employee of the escort agency at the time of the sexual assault.”
The suspect is described as a Caucasian man with a darker skin tone. He was described as 19-to-20-years-old at the time, making him 25-to-26 today, had dark coloured eyes, possibly brown, with short dark hair.
He was listed as between five-foot-eight and five-foot-10 with a stocky build, though not particularly fit or muscular.
The man also had large distinct side burns and noticeably thick eyebrows.
Moskaluk said it’s important for people to realize the drawing is how the suspect appeared in 2005.
“We believe the suspect is a resident of the Okanagan Valley,” said Moskaluk. “He was a resident of the Okanagan in the spring of 2005, and he was still a resident on Halloween night of this year. It is possible he lived outside of the valley for a period of time from 2005 to 2011.”
Police believe that the suspect’s family, friends or associates hold valuable information that will help solve these crimes.
“We ask that residents of the Okanagan think back to the days just prior to Taylor’s murder on Halloween night to see if they recall some form of conflict, or personal upset on the day or days leading up to Halloween,” said Moskaluk.
“This may include financial pressures, relationship pressures, job loss or other serious life stressor.”
The suspect may have had scratches to his face, neck or arms, may have had changes to his regular routine such as missed appointments or commitments to work or school.
Friends, family and associates may have observed noticeable changes in mood on or around Halloween night, and may have made a sudden, unplanned or unexplained departure from the area shortly after the Armstrong murder.
Police believe the individual may be financially dependent on others or collecting social assistance.
Anybody with any information is asked to call the random tip line set up for the Van Diest homicide at 1-888-688-4264 or, if you wish to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Releasing the photo Wednesday generated more than 150 tips to the phone line.
Moskaluk said police have not heard again from someone who wrote a letter to the Armstrong detachment claiming responsibility for the Van Diest homicide, and threatening more violence against women.
Police again urge North and Central Okanagan residents to remain vigilant and continue to take extra personal safety precautions when out in the community.
Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper said there’s some relief following the release of Wednesday’s information.
“We may not know exactly who it is, but we know who it isn’t,” said Pieper, referring to rumours the suspect may have been a high-school student. “There’s a lot of contentment in the city from people wondering. We now know the range of age and roughly what he looks like.”