Twenty-two-year-old Tess Richey disappeared in Toronto’s Gay Village after a fun night out. Four days later, she was found dead.
This Tess Richey murder timeline takes an in-depth look at the life of the vivacious woman and the investigation into her shocking death.
|About Tess Richey|
|Birth||November 30, 1994 North Bay, Ontario|
|Death||November 25, 2017 Toronto, Ontario|
|Siblings||Rachel Richey, Varina Richey|
|Cause of Death||Strangulation|
|Accused Murderer||Kalen Schlatter|
Richey, described as funny, sweet, and fierce, disappeared after a night out with an old high school friend in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Saturday, November 25, 2017.
Her body was found four days later, just steps away from her last known location.
Toronto police were sent to investigate, though it wasn’t the police who found her body.
Incredibly, Tess’ mother, Christine, made the four-hour drive to Toronto from North Bay to conduct her own search.
But tragically, it would be too late…and she would be the one to discover her daughter’s body.
2016 – North Bay-Born Tess Richey Moves to Toronto
Tess Alexandra Drew Richey was born November 20, 1994. She was the youngest of five sisters.
She grew up in North Bay, Ontario, a city four hours north of Toronto. Tess attended E.W. Norman Public School and Widdifield Secondary School.
Described by family and friends as funny, clever, witty, sweet, caring, and giving, she was known to stand up for anybody who needed protection.
The young woman was a vegan and a member of PETA.
According to her Facebook profile, Richey was an avid runner and had completed several marathons. She was also an amateur photographer, and loved pearls, doing her makeup, fashion, and thrift store shopping.
After high school, Richey worked as assistant manager at the Day’s Inn in North Bay.
But she always had bigger plans.
In 2016, she moved to Toronto and enrolled in the Flight Services program at Seneca College. She also attended George Brown College for Assaulted Women’s and Children’s Counselling and Advocacy.
At her apartment in Toronto, she tended to her collection of house plants and led a relatively normal life with her two faithful dogs, Phil and Pearl.
Older sister Rachel Richey described Tess as her best friend and soul mate. She characterized her sister as a hard worker who took on two part-time jobs after graduating from Seneca College in June 2017. According to her sister, Tess also applied for positions with airlines and for a front desk position at a Toronto hotel.
When neither of those efforts worked out, Tess Richey purchased the Rosetta Stone software program to learn Italian.
“She was on websites looking for au pair positions in Italy,” Rachel Richey said. “She wanted to travel. It was just something . . . she was transitioning,” Rachel said. “She felt ready to do it. She was working toward that goal.”
In fact, Tess even took to YouTube in 2014 to vlog about details of her move to Toronto in a video titled “My Story.” It was an emotional tell-all about an abusive relationship she was in with an ex-boyfriend while living in Toronto and attending school. Check it out below:
Aug. 2017 – Kalen Schlatter Saved Man From Being Bludgeoned to Death
In August 2017, four months before Richey’s, Toronto man Kalen Schlatter was hailed a hero for saving a life.
Police charged Whitley Hunter, 45, with attempted murder, relating to an attack that occurred in Earlscourt Park in the west end of Toronto on August 6, 2017. Police allege Hunter repeatedly struck a man in the head with a hammer. And that’s when Schlatter jumped in to stop the attack.
Global News interviewed Kalen Schlatter (his face is blurred in the video) calling him a “quick-thinking good Samaritan.”
Even though his face is blurred in the video and he’s not named, two friends have confirmed it was Schlatter.
According to reports about the attack, Schlatter confronted the attacker and said he was calling the police, and the attacker fled. Schlatter then applied pressure to the victim’s wounds until paramedics arrived.
The Toronto Police Service would not confirm if it is indeed Schlatter, as the department does not reveal names of witnesses.
But according to text messages sent between Schlatter and a friend following the attack, Schlatter explained the attack and that he saw a man in a park across the street from his home striking another person in the head with a hammer. He said ran over and chased the man away, shouting that he had called the police.
Further confirming that Schlatter was the hero in the park in August 2017, Schlatter’s mother Helga posted an account of the incident in a detailed Facebook post, which is now private.
“When I approached Kalen, he was covered in blood from head to toe,” Schlatter wrote. “I’m still stunned, proud and love him more than I can express.”
She also congratulated her son for having the “courage to stop a murder in progress” and stated that she loved him more than ever.
Nov. 24, 2017 – Rachel Spends Last “Perfect” Day with Tess
Rachel remembers November 24, her last day together with her sister, as being “perfect.”
“We sang, we ate, we played games, we joked, we talked,” she said. “It was a beautiful, beautiful afternoon. I’m very lucky.”
At around 11:30 p.m., Tess Richey left her sister Rachel’s home in Toronto to spend some time with Rayley Simard, an old high school friend.
“I remember coming back downstairs from putting my baby down and looking and seeing her walk out the front door. I saw her walk down my front path and that’s the last time I saw her.”
Nov. 25, 2017 – Tess Richey Murder Timeline
Approximately 12 a.m. – Crews and Tangos
So late Friday night, which would actually have been into the early Saturday hours, Tess Richey and her friend Rayley met up and spent some time drinking at Crews and Tangos. The place is a drag nightclub in the city’s Gay Village and popular hangout for students and young people.
Sometime After 1:30 a.m. – Richey and Simard Meet a Man
Sometime after leaving the club around 1:30 a.m., the two young women met up with an unknown (at that time) man. The trio was captured on security cameras at around 3:00 a.m. near a hot dog cart at the intersection of Church Street and Wellesley Street East.
3:30 a.m. – Trio Talks with Woman Outside Having a Smoke
An older woman identified only as Michelle, said she saw Richey, Simard, and a man walk by her house near Church St. and Dundonald St. at around 3:30 a.m. Michelle and her friend were standing outside having a smoke after they’d finished work.
“They were kind of loud and rambunctious and she thought she was disturbing us so she was like, ‘Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you,’” Michelle said of Richey.
After that informal introduction, the group struck up a conversation.
“She seemed really upset and I was really drawn to her. She was telling me that she recently broke up with her boyfriend so she was upset,” Michelle recalled.
Despite the fact that Michelle was 20 years older than Richey and Simard, the strangers talked for around 20 minutes. During this time Richey, Simard, and the man introduced themselves. Michelle couldn’t recall the man’s name.
“He was quiet the whole time. He basically blended in with the background,” she noted. “There’s nothing about him that stood out. That’s why I didn’t remember his name. He just became invisible.”
Michelle described him as shy and polite…like “the guy next door.”
“I actually believed it was a friend of hers,” she said. When Richey became upset during their conversation, the man confronted her.
“I would never in a million years think he would have hurt her.”
3:45 a.m. – Simard Gets Text from Boyfriend
At around 3:45 a.m., when the group was leaving, Simard received a text from her boyfriend asking where she was. Richey and Michelle exchanged phone numbers. Then Richey and the man headed westbound along Dundonald St. toward Yonge St.
“Sometimes I think if I had maybe stood outside for a few minutes more and just watched to see what happened, but there was nothing that made me question her safety,” Michelle said.
As for Simard, she and Richey had been drinking that night and she doesn’t even remember leaving her friend and the unknown man on Yonge St. when she caught the streetcar home.
What exactly happened to Tess Richey after 4:00 a.m. was a mystery.
4:00 a.m. – Tess Richey Disappears
Rachel Richey said the second last record they have of Tess from that day is an update at 3:00 a.m. from her FitBit. It marked her step count. At 4:00 a.m., there was a series of messages from Uber. The messages were sent to her mother Christine Hermeston’s cellphone. Tess’ cellphone account was set up using her mother’s credit card.
The messages suggested Tess ordered a ride, but it was cancelled 15 minutes later. It was unclear at the time whether Tess or the driver cancelled the trip.
Tess Richey never made it home.
Later that Morning – Sister Becomes Increasingly Worried
Her family tried to message Tess that Saturday morning, but they didn’t receive a response. Her sister simply thought Tess was sleeping in. When her texts and calls remained unanswered, she became more concerned.
“She was always prompt in responding to messages,” Rachel said. “But no one heard back from her and her cellphone had been turned off.”
9 p.m. – Police Are Called
At around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Rachel went to her sister’s apartment. Then, when she found no one there, she called Toronto Police to report her sister missing.
Nov. 26, 2017 – Toronto Police Search for Tess Richey
The next day, two Toronto police officers, Const. Alan McCullough and Const. Michael Jones, received a radio call at 3:45 p.m. They were asked to check an address connected to the Richey missing persons case.
When they got there, they looked at the “last known location” where Richey was seen…and then left.
Nov. 27, 2017 – Tess’ Mom Heads to Toronto to Launch Her Own Search
Sensing the Toronto Police were not taking the missing persons case seriously, Tess’ mother, Christine Hermeston, and a friend from North Bay drove to Toronto on Monday, November 27 to conduct their own search. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they put up posters and flyers looking for information on their missing daughter and friend.
Nov. 29, 2017 – Tess Richey Found
On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 29, one day before Tess Richey’s 23rd birthday, her mother and friend returned to Church and Dundonald, where she had reportedly been seen last. They checked out a home that was boarded up for construction.
Christine said “something pulled” her to the construction site.
“There was just something very eerie about that construction site–t was drawing me,” she said. “I just think if I were to follow my gut instinct I would have found her sooner.”
“We started opening up trash cans and stuff and sadly enough, in the stairwell she was found. It looked like a graveyard, like a grave plot, very narrow and I can’t imagine the nightmare that she lived.”
Distraught, Hermeston said she was still hopeful her daughter was alive when she found her.
“I know I’m told I did the right thing by not contaminating the crime scene but really I wish I would have just grabbed her and held her tight,” she said. “I just wanted to get an ambulance there quickly in case she was just unconscious.”
Richey was found just two houses away from her last known location. Had police conducted an even cursory search the previous Sunday, Christine believes they probably would have found her then.
Tess Richey’s death was confirmed as Toronto’s 56th homicide of 2017.
Police reviewed video footage shortly after Richey’s body was found.
“There’s an alley there and a stairwell and this is where we last see Tess,” said Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson. “Following this, we don’t see Tess anymore … and she’s not seen by any witnesses following that time.”
Gibson said the video footage shows the man exiting the stairwell on his own, then heading northbound on Church Street.
Dec. 1, 2017 – Autopsy Contradicts Police Statement
Toronto’s police department prematurely reported that Tess Richey’s body showed no visible signs of trauma and that her death didn’t appear to be suspicious. In fact, police said Tess died by “misadventure” and probably stumbled to her death because she was drunk and it was cold.
They changed their tune after an autopsy was performed.
The post-mortem exam showed that Richey died from “neck compression”—or strangulation. They deemed her death a homicide.
Investigators re-interviewed all of the witnesses who spoke to the police before the case was taken over by the homicide unit.
“We have different questions for them now that it’s a homicide. And we have more questions,” Gibson said.
Dec. 5, 2017 – Rachel Critical of Police’s Initial Search Efforts
Rachel Richey was justifiably critical of the initial police search efforts. She also railed against the Toronto media and how it portrayed her murdered sister.
If police had responded quicker to a missing person’s report she filed, Rachel says it’s possible her sister, Tess Richey, may have been found alive.
Toronto Police Service spokesman Mark Pugash said that when it came to the initial search efforts, especially when it was classified as a missing persons case, they had their concerns, but the police were “acting on those concerns.”
As for public criticism on how police handled the missing persons case, Pugash went on to say that there is “no evidence to suggest the case wasn’t taken seriously initially.”
Dec. 5, 2017 – Richey Family Dispute Tess Richey Was an Escort
While Tess Richey’s family said she worked at a coffee car in the Entertainment District, an anonymous source say she also worked as an escort and had been for a couple of years.
One unnamed source apparently close to the investigation, said police were exploring the possibility Tess advertised her services on various adult sites, and that she worked as a bartender at the Brass Rail, a popular Toronto strip club.
“There was never any reason for her to do that,” said sister Rachel. “Tess was the baby of the family. She was spoiled rotten. Every one of us would have given her money if she had asked for it. She would have asked if she needed it.”
Refuting her sister worked as an escort, Rachel said Tess used a dating web site and quit after her second week of work at the strip club.
Dec. 10, 2017 – Police Release CCTV Video of Man Seen with Richey
On December 10, 2017, Toronto Police released grainy CCTV images and identified the man as a suspect in Richey’s murder.
Hermeston said she shared the photos every day on Facebook.
“Every time I look at him I keep thinking I’ve seen this man before,” she said. “I call him a man but he’s not, that’s just loosely termed. But, it’s true, I look at him and I think I’ve seen him before somewhere. I keep going through my time here in Toronto with Tess and I met some of her friends but I just can’t pinpoint him.”
Rachel Richey added, “Someone out there has to know him. We’ve tirelessly posted all over social media and we’re still doing it, we’re still in the process of promoting any kind of posts, just trying to continue to circulate his image because someone has to recognize him.”
“The pictures are clear,” she added. “Someone will recognize this person.”
Feb. 4, 2018 – Kalen Schlatter Arrested for 2nd-Degree Murder
On February 4, 2018, two months after police released the CCTV images, police arrested Kalen Schlatter, 21, and charged him with second-degree murder.
“Tess was a young, innocent girl, who obviously–nothing like this should ever happen to anybody,” Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson told reporters at a press conference.
Police said Richey and Schlatter did not know each other before that night and described the young woman’s killing as a crime of opportunity. Police did not offer any theory about how Richey met Schlatter.
“We became aware of him fairly early on in the investigation, and it was quite a bit of work involved to bring us to the point where we were able to place him under arrest for the homicide,” Gibson said.
Varina Richey, Tess’ older sister, commented on the arrest saying, “At approximately 11:25 pm last night we received the call we have all been waiting for yet we never imagined we’d have to ever receive.”
“The person who allegedly took our Tessie’s precious life has been arrested on 2nd degree murder charges and wasn’t even at the station yet as the detective called to tell us the news.”
March 21, 2018 – Schlatter’s Charges Upgraded to 1st-Degree Murder
Kalen Schlatter, the man accused of murdering Tess Richey, recently had his charges upgraded to first-degree murder after police found new evidence in the case.
“I’m not going to get into what the new evidence is (but) I’m going to tell you that new evidence presented itself to us,” Det. Ted Lioumanis said. “I want to acknowledge the community for that. I want to thank them for that for coming forward.”
It is believed that the evidence includes witness statements, ongoing review of video footage, and additional evidence from the center of forensic science.
As Toronto Police Det. Ted Lioumanis noted, “It’s not a one-time, one piece of evidence, that put us over the edge.”
Under Canada’s Criminal Code, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if it was “planned or deliberate.” Murders that take place while attempting a sexual assault or kidnapping also qualify under that banner.
Police have said that Schlatter and Richey did not know each other before she was murdered. And Schlatter has not given investigators a statement.
March 22, 2018 – Schlatter Makes First Court Appearance
On March 22, 2018, accused murderer Kalen Schlatter appeared by video in College Park court, wearing an orange jumpsuit, his once clean-shaven face now bearded.
He said “good morning” and then told the Justice of the Peace his name. He stayed silent for the rest of the proceedings.
Crown attorney Jennifer Stanton told the court she would have more “substantial” evidence to provide to the defense before Schlatter’s next court appearance.
Schlatter has still not provided a statement and is not cooperating with police.
June 12, 2018 – Two Toronto Police Officers Charged with Misconduct
On June 12, the two Toronto Police officers who “investigated” Richey’s disappearance were charged with misconduct, after an internal police investigation found the pair failed to thoroughly search for Tess Richey.
Const. Alan McCullough and Const. Michael Jones, both with 51 Division, were charged with two counts of misconduct for neglect of duty under Ontario’s Police Services Act.
They each face one count of neglect of duty and one count of insubordination. If found guilty, they face penalties ranging from a reprimand to losing up to three weeks of pay.
According to the notice of hearing:
“You did not search the adjoining property or immediate area thoroughly.”
“You did not conduct a canvass of neighbours. You failed to notify a supervisory officer of all of the particulars.”
Mike McCormack, the president of the police union was, as expected, disappointed with the decision, saying the pair were “very professional” and “responsible.”
Instead of commenting on their refusal to do more than the bare minimum, which included checking out Richey’s “last known location,” McCormack railed against police policies and procedures.
“We don’t think it’s warranted that these officers are before the tribunal. They did their jobs by the policies and procedures and we think that’s what needs to be changed,” he said.
McCormack supports a review of how the Toronto police force handles missing persons cases, but said McCullough and Jones shouldn’t be penalized for allegedly doing less than the bare minimum.
Tess Richey’s body was eventually found by her mother, 40 meters (131 feet) from 582 Church St., the address officers had been called to.
McCullough, who, McCormack praised as being “very professional” has had his own brush with the law. The 17-year veteran of the force purchased a gun barrel online a decade ago that was classified as a prohibited device. He pleaded guilty to two counts of discreditable conduct and was docked 14 days of pay.
Commenting on the charges in a Facebook post, Varina Richey said, “I’ve made my statement to the press and I’ll make it here as well and it’s on my behalf only:
It was obvious that something had gone terribly wrong when my mom had to drive from North Bay to Toronto to find our beloved Tessie in the same area she was reported missing in.
Additionally, the subsequent allegations surrounding my sister’s death (murder) are something no family should have to endure when the absolute worst has happened. When homicide took over, they were truly fantastic and hopefully, this new development will prevent another family from having to go through what ours did if the unimaginable happens.
I’d like to add that I’m not sure if I take much if any joy in this latest twist but we are very emotional as a result.”