Two members of the Toronto Police Service’s neighbourhood community watch program were searching the streets of the city’s Church-Wellesley Village looking for Tess Richey when they heard a scream from the 22-year-old’s mother.
“We went up the fire escape at the back of 50 Dundonald Steet,” Const. Robert Chevalier said during testimony inside a Toronto courtroom on Monday. “We were halfway up when we heard a scream.”
Richey was reported missing after she went out with a friend to Crews and Tangos, located in the area of Church and Wellesley streets, on Nov. 25, 2017.
Her family and friends began putting up flyers with photos of the 22-year-old in a desperate effort to locate her.
Four days went by before Richey’s body was discovered by her mother, Christine Hermeston, who searched the area with her long-time friend, Ann Brazeau. The two found Richey’s body at the bottom of an exterior stairwell, located at the side of a home under construction at 582 Church Street.
Chevalier took to the witness stand in the third day of Kalen Schlatter’s murder trial.
The Crown alleges that Schlatter strangled Richey to death and left semen and saliva on her clothing before abandoning her body at the bottom of the outdoor stairwell.
The cause of death has been determined to be neck compression.
Schlatter, 23, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.
Richey deemed ‘no show’ by Uber driver
Chevalier said he became familiar with the case after he spotted a missing person flyer that had three photographs of Richey at The 519, a community centre in the Church-Wellesley Village. He said he took a photo of the homemade flyer that had a police phone number on it and flagged it to his partner in the unit – which was established in an effort to restore trust from community members in the Church-Wellesley Village and St. James Town area with members of the police service.
After discovering the flyer, the constable said he met with Richey’s mother, who had flown from her home in North Bay, Ont. to Toronto, to search for her daughter.
During his conversation with Richey’s mother, he said he became concerned for her well-being as she looked “very tired.” He said he advised her to have some coffee and eat something at The 519 while he and his partner searched an address flagged by Hermeston. He said it would not have been appropriate for Hermeston and her friend, Ann Brazeau, to join them in the search.
Chevalier and his partner then headed to 50 Dundonald Street, which was Richey’s last known location.
Richey had ordered an UberPool to pick her up at that address at 4:02 a.m. Marlon Allamby was the Uber driver who received her ride request. He testified in the courtroom on Monday morning, ahead of Chevalier.
Allamby told the courtroom the regular procedure for receiving a ride request and then what typically occurs if a ride is cancelled. He said a ride could be cancelled for various reasons, including the rider not showing up, which he said, in this case, Richey did not.
The Crown previously said the Uber driver sent two text messages to Richey’s cell phone prior to cancelling the trip at 4:14 a.m.
The courtroom viewed Richey’s receipt from Uber, which stated that the trip was zero kilometres, lasted for 00:00:00 and cost $5.65, the cancellation fee.
Another document shown to the courtroom stated that Allamby cancelled Richey’s ride. The reason for cancellation noted on the document said “rider isn’t here.”
During cross-examination by the defence, Allamby was asked if it was “normal” for riders to not show up, to which he said “yes.”
Police radio call followed mother’s scream
While searching at 50 Dundonald Street, which is just west from the construction site located at 582 Church Street, Chevalier and his partner were climbing up the fire escape when they heard a scream, he told the courtroom.
He said a radio call pertaining to a body found at Church and Dundonald streets followed the scream.
Chevalier and his partner then responded to the call and found Hermeston and Brazeau, as well as the business owner of Zen Dogs, located next door to the construction site, outside of 582 Church Street on the sidewalk.
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The constable said he then went down the exterior stairwell and remembers thinking, “oh my God, that’s her.”
“I remember her laying there. I noticed her hair at first – she had black hair. Her hair was covering her face… She had a black sweater on and it looked like it had gravel dust on it. She had black tights on.”
Chevalier added that her green jacket and pink purse were also at the bottom of the stairwell.
“She didn’t look like she was alive at this point,” he said after providing the description of what he saw that afternoon.
The owner of Zen Dogs was also called as a witness to the Crown on Monday. William Ayers said he was inside his store with a customer when they also heard a scream.
He said he went outside with the customer and were notified by a woman that a body had been discovered at the bottom of the stairwell, which is located in between the two properties.
Ayers said he looked over the railing of the stairwell and saw the body. He said he only looked for about two minutes.
“I said ‘hello,’ trying to hear if I could hear a response and there wasn’t,” he said. “I walked back to the shop and shortly after that I heard the ambulance come.”
Richey’s body was discovered the day before she would have turned 23.
Richey moved to Toronto when she was 19 years old. She was the youngest of five sisters and had dreams of being a flight attendant who could travel the world.
Cops face disciplinary charges; review being conducted
After Hermeston and Brazeau discovered Richey’s body just metres from where she was last seen, the Toronto Police Service faced public criticism for officers’ failing to properly search for the 22-year-old after she was reported missing.
Two officers, Const. Michael Jones and Const. Alan McCullough, are facing disciplinary charges in the matter. Their hearing has been put off until Schlatter’s criminal trial is over.
As well, the police service has launched a review into how it handles missing persons cases connected to the city’s Gay Village following public backlash from community members.
The review is being conducted by a retired Ontario Court of Appeal judge, Gloria Epstein, and is expected to be complete in April.
On Monday, Schlatter’s trial adjourned early, around 2:30 p.m., as one of the jurors fell and suffered injuries during the lunch break. Their condition is not known but court is scheduled to resume on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.