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Murder charge upgraded for Toronto man accused in 2017 gay village death

Last Updated Mar 22, 2018 at 5:01 am PDT

TORONTO – A man accused of killing a young woman in Toronto’s gay village last year has seen his charge upgraded to first-degree murder.

Police initially charged Kalen Schlatter, 21, with second-degree murder last month in the death of Tess Richey, who investigators say died of “neck compression.”

Richey, 22, was reported missing in November after a night out with a friend.

Her mother, who travelled from her home in North Bay to search for her, found Richey’s body four days later in a stairwell at the back of an alley, just steps from where she was last seen alive.

Investigators have said that Richey met Schlatter on the street after she and her friend left a bar the night she disappeared. Surveillance video released by police appears to show Schlatter and Richey together near the alley.

Toronto police declined Wednesday to comment on the upgraded charge against Schlatter.

There are certain circumstances in the Criminal Code that can lead to a charge of first-degree murder, including the allegation that a killing was planned and deliberate, or that it took place while the accused committed or attempted to commit a sexual assault or a kidnapping.

Richey’s death and the disappearances of several men with links to the gay village prompted complaints from the community that police were not doing enough to protect them.

Chief Mark Saunders announced in December that the force would review its handling of missing persons cases.

Self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, has since been charged with six counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths and disappearances of several men, most of them with ties to the area.

Police say the Richey case is not related to the accusations against McArthur.

Schlatter is to appear in court Thursday morning.