Richey, 22, was reported missing after last being seen in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood on Nov. 25. Police said she was out at a bar and had been seen interacting with a young man.
Her body was found by her mother and a friend in a stairwell outside a building under construction in the area on Nov. 29. A post-mortem exam revealed she died from “neck compression.”
Kalen Schlatter was arrested on Feb. 4 and charged with second-degree murder.
On Wednesday, police said that charge has been upgraded to first-degree murder, but declined to elaborate, saying the case is before the courts.
Richey’s sister, Rachel, posted a statement to Twitter on behalf of herself and her mother Wednesday afternoon, saying it was “the best news we could hope for in this situation.”
“Today we thank Toronto Police detectives Ted Lioumanis and Graham Gibson for their tireless efforts in Tess’ case. Their diligence has brought Tess the justice she deserves and, we hold out hope, will continue to get throughout the court process.”
“Until that time we find strength in our remaining numbers and will continue to honour and remember Tess and the joy and love she brought to so many lives. She was the heart of our family.”
Schlatter is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
— With files from David Shum, Global News