TORONTO — A Toronto man found guilty of sexually assaulting and strangling a young woman hours after they met is seeking to challenge his murder conviction.
Kalen Schlatter filed a notice of appeal last Wednesday, more than a week after he was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Tess Richey.
The verdict means jurors believed beyond a reasonable doubt that Schlatter, 23, sexually assaulted Richey as part of the killing.
First-degree murder carries an automatic sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
In his notice of appeal, Schlatter alleges the judge who oversaw his trial gave "imbalanced" instructions to jurors before they began deliberations.
He also alleges Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Dambrot erred in admitting the evidence of two undercover officers who testified they spoke to Schlatter while in neighbouring jail cells after his arrest.
As he handed down the sentence last month, Dambrot said Schlatter's "appetite for violent sex" led him to kill "an innocent young woman" in November 2017.
The judge noted jurors found Schlatter guilty without having heard evidence of his sexual interest in choking, which was deemed inadmissible at his trial.
Prosecutors alleged during trial that Schlatter was determined to have sex with someone and zeroed in on Richey after crossing paths with her and her friend in the early hours of Nov. 25, 2017. The three had all left the same club in downtown Toronto.
They alleged he repeatedly intervened so Richey wouldn't go home, even after her friend left, and eventually convinced her to walk down an alley at a construction site, where he attacked.
Court viewed multiple security videos from that night that showed the three wandering through the neighbourhood, at one point buying hotdogs from a cart and then stopping to talk with two people outside a home.
Richey's friend eventually went home, and Schlatter can be seen on video walking after Richey and sitting next to her on a concrete divider.
Another video showed Schlatter and Richey walking down an alley around 4:15 a.m., and Schlatter emerging alone roughly 45 minutes later. No one else was seen coming in or out of the alley, which was between two buildings and fenced off at the back.
Richey's disappearance set off a massive search effort, particularly in the city's gay village, the area where the club was located and where she was last seen.
Her body was found days later by her mother and a family friend, at the bottom of a stairwell in that alley. A forensic pathologist who examined her body testified Richey had been strangled, possibly with fabric or a forearm.
Schlatter was arrested and charged in February 2018. Court heard he was placed in a holding cell in a Toronto police station, and that two undercover officers were waiting in nearby cells.
Both officers testified at the trial. Their conversation with Schlatter during the undercover operation was not recorded.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 7, 2020.
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press