An undercover officer’s memory of an unrecorded conversation with Kalen Schlatter soon after his arrest for Tess Richey’s murder contains troubling discrepancies, the defence argued in cross-examination Friday.
While questioning one of two undercover officers placed in the cells with Schlatter in the early hours of Feb. 5, 2018, defence lawyer Lydia Riva also suggested her client bragged to the officers about his sexual conquests with women because he feared how he would be treated in jail as someone who identifies as bisexual.
The officer testified he had no knowledge that Schlatter self-identified as bisexual and said he was not aware of video that showed him dancing with a man at a gay bar the night of Richey’s murder.
Tess Richey, a 22-year-old aspiring flight attendant, was found dead in the outside stairwell of a house on Church Street on Nov. 29, 2017. Schlatter, 23, has pleaded not guilty to her first-degree murder.
The Crown is arguing Schlatter sexually assaulted Richey and strangled her after she refused to have sex with him sometime after 4 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2017.
In court Friday, Riva questioned specific details of the undercover officer’s recollection of the holding-cell exchange between himself, Schlatter and the second officer.
The first officer had testified that Schlatter told him “sometimes you have to push the boundaries with women” to see where it goes while describing his techniques for picking up women at gay bars.
Riva said Friday her client actually said he “never pushed the boundaries” and “if she wants to sleep with you she will, pushing the boundaries will just make things worse.”
The officer said that is not what Schlatter said.
Riva also noted that the exchange was not recorded but asked whether any other officers were listening in.
The undercover officer said there was a device that allowed his handlers to listen in and monitor the conversation for his safety, but that he didn’t know who exactly heard it and if they took notes.
No reason has been given for why the conversation was not audio-recorded.
The officer only took rough notes after three-and-a-half hours of conversation then made formal notes hours later, Riva noted. She questioned whether his recollection of specific words he claimed Schlatter used — such as that he said he “pretended to cry” when the police showed him photos of Richey’s body — was accurate.
The undercover officer maintained the word “pretended” was accurate.
Riva said there were discrepancies in what the two undercover officers recalled Schlatter saying. The second undercover officer has testified Schlatter said he was “arrested for something big,” Riva said, while the first testified Schlatter said he “did something big.”
The officer stood by what he remembered.
Riva suggested that the officer participated more actively in the conversation than he claimed, showing the jury a soundless video clip of the conversation that the public was not permitted to view because the officer’s identity is under a publication ban.
The officer testified that his role, by law, was to listen and sometimes guide the conversation but all the conversation topics were prompted by Schlatter. He said his objective was to get any information about the homicide investigation, whether it was good or bad for Schlatter.
He said he mostly repeated what Schlatter said or used “filler words” to indicate he was listening.
Riva also noted the officer was physically bigger than Schlatter, who was 21 at the time, and that he was posing as a criminal. The officer agreed to both assertions. He said he did not know how old Schlatter was.
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The officer testified that Schlatter said he saw the two undercover officers as brothers, that he opened up to them and said he trusted them, Riva said. He shared details about his case and his police interview. “Did he ever tell you he killed Tess Richey?” she asked.
The officer said no.
The trial continues Monday.