TORONTO – A woman testifying at a first-degree murder trial in Toronto on Tuesday struggled to recall the events leading up to her friend’s violent death in the city’s gay village after a night of partying.
Ryley Simard testified she and Tess Richey, who had recently broken up with her boyfriend, became “quite intoxicated” at a bar in the hours before Richey disappeared on Nov. 25, 2017.
Outside the bar Crews and Tangos, Simard testified, is where the pair met Kalen Schlatter for the first time.
“He was tall, with dark brown hair and slim, that’s it,” Simard said.
She said she could not recall whether she spoke to him other than saying “Hi.”
The prosecution alleges Schlatter sexually assaulted then strangled Tess Richey after she refused his advances some time after 4 a.m. that morning.
Schlatter has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Richey’s mother and a friend of hers found the 22-year-old’s body in a stairwell four days after the young woman’s friends last heard from her on Nov. 25, 2017.
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Simard said Richey was upset earlier that night because staff at the bar had kicked her out and the pair were unsure what to do next. She said they walked north along Church Street before stopping at a hot dog stand.
Then she remembered kissing Richey on the cheek and then kissing Schlatter on the mouth.
Simard’s memory of the night was spotty due to the alcohol she drank and the cannabis she smoked, she testified.
Another witness, Michelle Teape, told court last week she met Richey, Simard and Schlatter some time around 3 a.m. outside her apartment, where she was out with a friend.
Teape said she heard laughter from the trio before Richey stopped to apologize for making so much noise.
She struck up a quick kinship with Richey, in part due to the young woman’s sadness.
“She told me she was upset because she just broke up with her boyfriend,” Teape testified.
Richey became upset when Simard said she wanted to leave, Teape said.
That’s when Schlatter “walked behind (Richey) and put his hands on her shoulder and he said ‘I got this,”‘ Teape said.
Simard testified she only recalled being outside Teape’s house with Richey and “a male.” She could not say if that man was Schlatter or not.
Around 4 a.m., Simard said she got a text from her partner and decided to leave.
“Don’t leave,” Simard recalled Richey saying, but Simard left for home because it was late.
In the prosecution’s opening address to the jury last week, Crown prosecutor Bev Richards said Schlatter’s DNA was found on Richey’s pants and bra.
The Crown said surveillance video shows Schlatter leading Richey to a stairwell around 4:14 a.m. and Schlatter emerging alone 45 minutes later.
The trial continues Wednesday.