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Prosecutors question credibility of Kalen Schlatter at his murder trial

Last Updated Mar 10, 2020 at 5:40 pm EDT

Kalen Schlatter at the first day of his murder trial in the death of Tess Richey (Pam Davies/CITYNEWS)

A Toronto man accused of killing a young woman denied Tuesday that he led her to a secluded area, forced himself on her and left her dead body crumpled at the bottom of a stairwell.

Prosecutors challenged Kalen Schlatter’s account of what happened the night Tess Richey disappeared, suggesting it was him, not her, who initiated and orchestrated their encounter.

Crown attorney Bev Richards argued Schlatter was set on having sex that night and had unsuccessfully tried to charm several other women by the time he crossed paths with the 22-year-old outside a downtown Toronto nightclub.

She suggested Schlatter did not want Richey to go home and followed the young woman after her friend left, even waving away a taxi that she hailed, because he liked a challenge and wanted to “score” _ a narrative Schlatter rejected.

Richards suggested Schlatter knew the area very well and took her down a driveway to a stairwell, hoping they would have sex there. But Richey refused to have sex because she was on her period, and fought Schlatter when he didn’t accept her answer, the prosecutor said.

“I’m going to suggest to you that Tess Richey doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want to do, and as a result, you forced yourself on her, didn’t you?” Richards asked during cross-examination.

“I did not force myself on her,” he replied.

“I’m going to suggest…you strangled Ms. Richey to death, didn’t you?” Richards asked.

“No I did not,” said Schlatter, 23.

Richards also questioned Schlatter’s testimony that he didn’t realize Richey had died until Dec. 10, when a friend reported seeing his photo in a news piece on the case.

Schlatter “knew very well” what he had done, the prosecutor suggested, noting he threw up on his way home shortly afterwards.

“I’m going to suggest to you, Mr. Schlatter, that you weren’t feeling well in the cab because this…this is what you left behind,” Richards said, holding up a photo of Richey’s body at the base of the stairs.

Schlatter instead blamed his vomiting on alcohol and the food he ate after the club, as well as staying up all night.

He has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Richey’s death. The young woman went missing after a night out with a friend in November 2017 and her body was found days later, in a stairwell a short distance from where she had last been seen.

Schlatter previously testified he ran into Richey and her friend Ryley Simard after they all left the same club in the early hours of Nov. 25, then the three spend some time together until Simard went home.

He testified Richey seemed upset at her friend’s departure, so he went to check on her. They sat down and talked for a while, with Richey listening intently, and eventually she asked if she could kiss him, he told the court.

They stood up, exchanged a brief hug and kiss, then Richey asked him to follow her, Schlatter said. She led him to a driveway, then down a stairwell, where they “made out” for a while, he said.

Schlatter testified he mentioned having condoms but Richey turned down sex because she was on her period. He eventually ejaculated in his pants and the two went back up the stairs and parted ways, he said.

Richey was still alive when he left and he only learned of her death on Dec. 10, nearly two weeks after her disappearance made the news, he said.

Richards pressed him on the details of his account on Tuesday, suggesting it did not make sense for Richey to take the lead or for Schlatter to follow her blindly, as he said he did.

Schlatter said he followed because he believed, given their earlier kiss, that Richey wanted to go make out somewhere. Asked if he thought at the time there was a possibility they would have sex, Schlatter said: “It was a possibility but I didn’t know for sure.”

The Crown noted Richey showed Schlatter no affection in security videos from the night and in fact tried to go home at one point by hailing a cab.

Later, when Schlatter said Richey was listening intently to him speak, Richey was actually calling an Uber, though she never made it to the pickup point, Richards said. When Schlatter said Richey declined a call to focus on their conversation, no call was recorded on her phone, the attorney said.

Schlatter acknowledged the young woman wasn’t affectionate but said she was clearly interested because she asked for a kiss.

He said he didn’t know if Richey had hailed the taxi for herself but he sent it away because it was hampering traffic. He also testified he didn’t know Richey had called an Uber and didn’t see her on her phone.

Richards also questioned Schlatter’s testimony that he followed Richey because he was unfamiliar with the neighbourhood, pointing to cellphone records that showed he was in the area three consecutive weekends leading up to her death.

The prosecutor noted Schlatter lied to a friend and to two undercover officers in describing his encounter with Richey.

Court heard Schlatter texted a friend that he had gone home with Richey, who he described only as a woman he had met at a club. He told undercover officers after his arrest that he and Richey had been making out and dancing inside the bar.

In fact, he only met Richey outside after they left the club and they did not go home together.

Schlatter said the words he used with his friend were “metaphors,” and said he lied to the undercover officers to hide the fact that he is bisexual and had been making out and dancing with a man.

“You lie when you think it’s to your advantage, don’t you?” Richards asked.

“No,” Schlatter replied. “I lied to protect myself.”

CityNews’ Pam Seatle is tweeting live from the Toronto courtroom: