A 21-year-old Toronto man, who police had been seeking as a person of interest, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Tess Richey.
“Tess was a young, innocent girl, who obviously – nothing like this should ever happen to anybody,” Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Police said the 22-year-old woman was out at a bar with a friend in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood of Toronto around 3 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2017 when she was seen interacting with a young man.
Investigators said she was witnessed with the suspect prior to her disappearance that morning.
Four days after she was reported missing, Richey was located by her mother and a friend on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 in a stairwell outside a building under construction near Church and Wellesley streets.
A post-mortem exam several days later revealed she died from “neck compression” after police initially said her death was believed to be an accident.
Police said both the suspect and Richey did not know each other prior to meeting on Nov. 25 and that her death is believed to be a crime of opportunity.
“We became aware of him fairly early on in the investigation, and it was quite a bit of work involved to bring us to the point where we were able to place him under arrest for the homicide,” Gibson said.
Varina Richey, the victim’s older sister, wrote in a Facebook post that the family was notified of the arrest Sunday night.
“At approximately 11:25 pm last night we received the call we have all been waiting for yet we never imagined we’d have to ever receive,” the post read.
“The person who allegedly took our Tessie’s precious life has been arrested on 2nd degree murder charges and wasn’t even at the station yet as the detective called to tell us the news.”
The victim’s family members claim the case wasn’t taken seriously as it was Richey’s mother and friend who located her body instead of police.
Chief Mark Saunders held a press conference one week after her death and promised a professional standards review to examine processes and procedures into how police handle missing persons cases.
“We treat every case of equal importance and we follow the leads until hopefully we can make an arrest,” Gibson said.
“If we can’t, we immediately keep working on it until we get to that stage where we can hopefully make an arrest. This is the kind of case where you obviously want to make an arrest because it’s very high profile.”
Police issued a press release on Dec. 3, 2017 seeking an unknown male near the area where Richey was reported missing.
The male was described as white, approximately 5’7” to 6’ tall, with a slim build and light-coloured short hair.
Police later released security images of the same man they believed was linked to Richey’s death.
Investigators said the suspect was arrested near his residence in west-end Toronto on Sunday.
The accused, identified as Kalen Schlatter, made a court appearance on Monday and was remanded into custody.
Authorities said he was a contract worker who did exterior work on properties.
He is scheduled to reappear in court on Feb. 22.
VIDEO: Police confirm Kalen Schlatter man identified in security images