Three weeks following the unsolved murder of a local teenager, and things in the City of Armstrong, says its mayor, are still not normal.
But Chris Pieper and the RCMP hope a community event will help bring some normality back.
An invitation has been extended for Armstrong and all North Okanagan residents to attend the city’s annual downtown Christmas light up and tree lighting ceremony Thursday at 5 p.m.
“We want everybody to come out, join in the community and help us go forward,” said Pieper.
“The chamber is organizing a really good parade. Students will be down in the afternoon to decorate the Christmas tree. Still exercise caution, don’t let your guard down until the RCMP make an arrest on this.”
Taylor Van Diest, 18, a 2011 graduate of Pleasant Valley Secondary School, was found severely injured in a bush area near railroad tracks on Rosedale Avenue Oct. 31. She died later that night in hospital, and police determined her case to be a homicide.
Van Diest’s assailant, or assailants, remains at large.
Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk said police have stepped up their presence in Armstrong with extra patrols by regular and auxiliary officers, as well as help from Citizens On Patrol.
Police encourage everybody to attend Thursday’s light up ceremony, and to continue to use safety precautions.
“Travel in groups, carry cell phones, and let people know where you’re going,” said Molendyk.
The attack on Van Diest, and the fact the suspect, or suspects, is still at large, has the community still on edge.
“There’s fear, caution and all of the uncertainty that goes with it,” said Pieper. “I think caution is being portrayed around town. Hopefully this first part of the event will come to a close with somebody being caught.”
A dedicated tip line remains activated in the Van Diest investigation, and police again urge anyone with information regarding the homicide to please contact investigators via this phone line.
Police have received upwards of 50 tips to date and still want to hear from anyone with information to come forward.
If you have any information, call 1-888-688-4264.