BRITISH COLUMBIA

Serena Vermeersch Homicide: Raymond Caissie's 2013 Release Outrages Mayor

09/23/2014 10:36 EDT | Updated 11/23/2014 05:59 EST
Mayor Dianne Watts of Surrey, B.C., says she is outraged a convicted high-risk sex offender who was released into her community last year has now been charged with second-degree murder of 17-year-old Serena Vermeersch.

Raymond Lee Caissie​, 43, is a high-risk sex offender who was released from prison last year after serving 22 years for a violent sexual assault. Vermeersch's body was discovered last Tuesday night near a set of railroad tracks in Surrey's East Newton neighbourhood, after she failed to return home the previous night..

Watts says she first raised concern about Caissie when he was released from prison in June 2013 after serving more than 20 years for the assault and unlawful confinement of a 21-year-old Abbotsford museum worker in 1991.

"When he was released, I had some significant concerns and I have significant concerns any time there is a warning issued that an individual being released has a high potential to reoffend," said Watts on Monday.

At the time of his release in 2013, Surrey RCMP issued a statement warning the public of a “high-risk sexual offender” loose in the community.

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Serena Vermeersch

"Caissie has maintained a varied pattern of offending, having offended both violently and sexually, in both an opportunistic and impulsive manner," the RCMP said in the 2013 news release.

“He is to be supervised by the Surrey Probation Office and is being monitored by the Surrey RCMP."

CBC News has learned Caissie was living in an apartment just off King George Highway in Surrey's Whalley neighbourhood until recently. He was arrested last year for theft.

'You know he's going to re-offend'

Watts, who recently announced plans to seek the Conservative nomination for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in the 2015 federal election, said it's unacceptable that a man with Caissie's reputation moved to her community.

"We have a third of our population under the age of 19 and now you've got a high-risk sex offender that has spent 22 years in jail for forcible confinement and rape."

Watts is questioning how high-risk offenders are dealt with once they finish their sentences.

"Given the nature of his incarceration and offences, all of those things, you know he's going to re-offend — he can't be released," said Watts.

"The general public, their safety has to come first and foremost. I don't know how you can get around that. Right now the laws don't permit that, so therefore the laws need to be changed."

Tim Veresh, who speaks for the John Howard Society of the Lower Mainland, which helps reintegrate convicted criminals once released, said there is often more of a focus on catching people and less on what happens after.

"It's an area for us to think about, not only when we invest in managing or supervising or assisting police with their funding to arrest individuals, it's also what services are going into support and supervision in the community?" said Veresh.

Pickup truck driver still sought

Meanwhile, homicide investigators say they're still looking for the person who drove away from the area where the Surrey teen's body was found.

Investigators have issued a public plea for information about a man seen in a Dodge pickup truck near some train tracks just before the teen's body was found.

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team said police have not yet identified the driver but they would like to speak with him.

Caissie scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 2.