TORONTO — A man accused of killing a young woman in Toronto's gay village had his charge upgraded to first-degree murder after police found new evidence in the case, an investigator said Thursday after the 21-year-old appeared in court.
Kalen Schlatter is charged in the November 2017 murder of 22-year-old Tess Richey who, according to police, died of "neck compression."
Schlatter was initially charged with second-degree murder last month but the charge was elevated to first-degree murder Wednesday.
"I'm not going to get into what the new evidence is (but) I'm going to tell you that new evidence presented itself to us," Det. Ted Lioumanis told reporters following a brief court appearance at which Schlatter's case was put over until April 23 "I want to acknowledge the community for that. I want to thank them for that for coming forward."
There are a handful of conditions under Canada's Criminal Code that can result in a charge of first-degree murder. "Planned and deliberate" homicides and killings that occur while committing or attempting a sexual assault or kidnapping are among the crimes that qualify.
Police believe Schlatter and Richey did not know each other before the night of her death, Lioumanis said outside court, adding that Schlatter has not yet provided investigators with a statement.
Richey was reported missing Nov. 25 after a night out with a friend in Toronto's Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.
Her mother, who travelled from the family home in North Bay, Ont., to search for her daughter, found Richey's body four days later in a stairwell at the back of an alley, just steps from where she was last seen alive.
Richey met Schlatter on the street after she and her friend left a bar, police have said. Surveillance video shows Schlatter and Richey together near the alley where her body was found.
Richey's family, some of whom attended Thursday's court appearance, are in a "horrible situation," Lioumanis said.
"Are they happy for the new charge? Absolutely," he said. "But considering what they've gone through and what they are going through, will they ever come to grips on what happened?"
Schlatter appeared in court by video, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, his hair neatly combed and his beard trimmed close. He spoke only to say "good morning" and provide his name at the start of proceedings.
Crown attorney Jennifer Stanton told the court her office would have more evidence to provide to the defence before Schlatter's next court appearance.
Police faced public criticism for their failure to find Richey in the days after her disappearance.
Her death, along with several other disappearances connected to the gay village, led community members to say police were not protecting them.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced in December that the force would review its handling of missing persons cases.
In a case unrelated to Richey's, self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the deaths and disappearances of six men, most of them with ties to the gay village.
Peter Goffin , The Canadian Press