Shock, disbelief and grief have gripped Armstrong following a Halloween horror.
Police are treating as a homicide the death of 18-year-old Taylor Van Diest, who graduated from Pleasant Valley Scondary School in June.
Van Diest was found near the railway tracks close to Rosedale Avenue shortly before 9 p.m. Monday by family, friends and police who were out looking for the teen. She had been reported missing earlier in the evening.
Van Diest was found to be severely injured and unconscious. She was taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital, then transferred to Kelowna General Hospital where she died from her injuries.
“What is known is that Taylor Van Diest was going out last evening for Halloween, but it is not clear who she was to meet with,” said Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk Tuesday afternoon.
Asked by a reporter about reports the victim had expressed concerns about someone stalking her, Molendyk said police are following up on all aspects of information they have received prior to the homicide.
“That’s why we’re asking the public for help, anybody who may have dealt with her or seen her yesterday afternoon, into the evening hours, to call us,” said Molendyk.
Police could not confirm if Van Diest was wearing a costume when she was found, given it was Halloween evening.
More than 30 officers are following up on Monday’s homicide, including checking social network sites.
Police have no suspects at this point.
An autopsy will be conducted to determine the official cause of death. Police are not revealing details of what injuries Van Diest suffered.
For the City of Armstrong, the homicide is the fourth tragedy the community has had to deal with in little more than a month.
An 18-year-old male was electrocuted at a work site in Armstrong; two Armstrong children, aged five and four, died in a motorhome fire in Lytton; and an Enderby couple, both 83 who had recently celebrated their 60th anniversary, died as the result of a car accident in Spallumcheen.
“They are all extremely heart-wrenching,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper Tuesday.
“It always gives you an empty feeling.”
Pieper said residents are doing some soul-searching in regards to the tragedies, asking “why here?”
“In the big centres, these types of things happen and we wonder how they can happen in a small community,” said Pieper.
“The reality is, you’re never exempt. It can happen in any community.”
Floral tributes to Van Diest had been placed on the signals of the railway crossing Tuesday afternoon.
Anybody with any information on Van Diest’s death is asked to call the Armstrong RCMP at 250-546-3028, the Vernon detachment at 250-545-7171 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
Tips can also be left on the local Crime Stoppers’ website, www.nokscrimestoppers.com.