EDITORIAL: Arrests bring relief to Armstrong

RCMP announcement of arrests made in Van Diest murder bring relief to family and entire community

The gusts of wind that blew through the North Okanagan Thursday afternoon was a region letting out its collective breath.

RCMP announced before a packed crowd jammed into Armstrong council chambers that an arrest had been made in connection with the Halloween night 2011 homicide of local teenager Taylor Van Diest, 18.

And it wasn’t one person arrested. It was two.

Van Diest’s body was found by family and friends near railway tracks after she failed to meet friends for some Halloween night fun. She died later in Kelowna hospital, 157 days ago.

The RCMP, which often takes a beating in public forums for not keeping communities safe or informed on investigations, devoted countless man-hours to one of the most extensive investigations in the North Okanagan’s history.

They kept Mayor Chris Pieper abreast of the investigation. They revealed photos of what Taylor was wearing Halloween night. They informed the public that an anonymous letter writer had taken responsibility for the death, and they revealed that, thanks to DNA evidence, the man who killed Van Diest was the same individual who sexually assaulted a Kelowna woman in 2005.

A composite sketch yielded hundreds of more tips until, finally, 156 days after the murder, police could announce they had a suspect in custody.

Armstrong changed forever Halloween night 2011.The sleepy little community fell victim to a crime that can happen anywhere. Thanks to the RCMP’s efforts and the arrest of a suspect, Armstrong’s healing can now officially begin.