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Former cellmate says Schlatter confessed to strangling Richey with scarf

TORONTO — A jailhouse informant with a "huge criminal record" spanning decades testified Tuesday that Kalen Schlatter confessed to strangling a young woman with a scarf when she refused to have sex with him hours after they met.

The informant, who can only be identified as E.S. due to a publication ban, said Schlatter confided in him when they shared a cell at a Toronto detention centre for roughly two months in 2018.

E.S. said Schlatter described meeting Tess Richey at the Crews and Tangos bar and going to a hot dog stand with her and her friend afterwards. Schlatter said he took Richey down an alley after her friend left, the informant said.

He said Schlatter recalled making out with Richey in a stairwell, then losing control when she told him she didn't want to go any further.

"He was sexually aroused, he wanted to keep going, she wanted to stop," E.S. said Schlatter told him.

"He tied a scarf around her neck. She was on the ground and it excited him. He was past the point of no control. He ejaculated on her."

The informant testified Schlatter said that Richey was dead when he removed the scarf. Schlatter described finding Richey's purse at the top of the stairs and taking $60 from her, E.S. told the court.

Schlatter said he used Richey's money to pay for a cab but got out part of the way through, then took an Uber the rest of the way so he wouldn't be linked to the crime scene, E.S. said.

He said Schlatter reported having consumed ecstasy, cannabis edibles and alcohol that night.

Richey, 22, went missing after a night out with a friend in November 2017. Her body was found in a stairwell days later by her mother and a family friend.

Schlatter was arrested in February 2018 and has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. His lawyers have drawn attention to another man who was seen in the area that night.

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

E.S. told the court he initially felt sorry for Schlatter, a young man who was in jail for the first time, and invited him to share his cell.

He said Schlatter was shaken after a visit from his lawyer in which he learned he had spoken to undercover officers while in a holding cell immediately after his arrest. The young man asked E.S. if he was a cop, the informant said.

Schlatter also appeared upset after hearing from his lawyer that security footage showing him and Richey walking towards the alley and him emerging alone was in fact quite blurry. Schlatter said he had already admitted to police it was him in the video, without ever viewing it himself, E.S. said.

E.S. testified that Schlatter ran several potential stories and alibis by him, including the possibility he had left Richey alive but suicidal and that her family had covered up her hanging. In another version Schlatter suggested, someone else came along to kill Richey after he left, E.S. said.

Over time, E.S. began to view Schlatter differently, he said. He noted Schlatter cried himself to sleep because he didn't want to serve time and because he missed his "mommy," but had "no remorse" about Richey's death.

The informant, who acknowledged he committed many crimes over the years — including several break and enters and a domestic assault — said he was reluctant to alert police, but the knowledge drove him "nuts."

"I'm a criminal. I don't like being a rat," he said.

In their cross-examination, defence lawyers questioned E.S.'s credibility, pointing to his numerous crimes and suggesting he was now trying to paint himself as someone of good moral character.

E.S. disagreed that he was trying to appear upstanding. "If you're trying to make me look like a criminal I'll save you the time — I am a criminal," he said.

Defence lawyer Lydia Riva also noted E.S. had been a jailhouse informant in a previous murder case in exchange for bail and a shorter sentence in one of his crimes, and suggested his lawyer sought something similar when he reached out to detectives investigating Richey's death.

E.S. acknowledged he was hoping to get favourable treatment for the information, but pointed out he spoke to police long before his lawyer took any such steps. And in the end, he took the stand despite the Crown's refusal to give him special consideration, he said.

E.S. also rejected the defence suggestion that he learned details of the case from the news or that Schlatter had simply been repeating information received from his lawyers or investigators.

The cross-examination is expected to continue Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press