Jurors begin deliberations in Kalen Schlatter murder trial

TORONTO — Jurors began their deliberations Friday in the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting and strangling a young woman just hours after they met.

The jury deciding the fate of Kalen Schlatter will have to weigh more than a month of evidence presented by the Crown and defence.

Schlatter, 23, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Tess Richey, a woman whose body was found in an outdoor stairwell in downtown Toronto.

He testified last week that Richey was alive when he left her in an alley following a consensual sexual encounter in the early morning hours of Nov. 25, 2017.

Prosecutors, however, allege that Schlatter was determined to have sex with Richey, who he had met hours earlier, and lured her into the alley as she was trying to go meet her Uber.

They argue that Schlatter forced himself on her and strangled her when she tried to fight him off.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot told jurors Friday that in order to convict Schlatter of first-degree murder they must find beyond a reasonable doubt that he strangled Richey, either intending to kill her or to cause harm he knew was likely to kill her.

They must also find that he sexually assaulted her as part of the same series of events to convict him on that charge, Dambrot said in his instructions.

"Of course, in this case, Ms. Richey is not here to tell us whether or not she consented to any of the sexual touching with Mr. Schlatter," he said. 

"But you can consider all of the evidence, including the circumstances surrounding Mr. Schlatter's physical contact with Ms. Richey, to decide whether she consented or not," he said.

"Take into account Mr. Schlatter's evidence to the same effect. He said that all of this was consensual."

If jurors are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Schlatter strangled Richey, either intentionally or through recklessness, but not that he sexually assaulted her, they must find him guilty of second-degree murder, he said.

However, if they believe Schlatter caused her death but did not intend to do so or to cause harm that was likely to kill her, they must convict him of manslaughter, Dambrot said.

And if they do not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that he killed her, they must acquit him.

Court has heard Schlatter's semen was found on Richey's pants and his saliva on the inside of her bra.

Jurors have also viewed security footage that shows the pair walking into the alley together just before 4:15 a.m. and Schlatter leaving alone roughly 45 minutes later.

Richey was never seen alive again. Her body was found days later by her mother and a family friend.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 20, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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