05/25/2015 12:59 EDT | Updated 05/25/2016 01:12 EDT

Patient seen with Perry on night of death won't appear at inquest

SAINT JOHN, N.B. - A young male psychiatric patient who was seen with Serena Perry the night she died won't appear at a coroner's inquest in Saint John, N.B.Perry, 22, was unresponsive when she was found on the floor of the Saint John Regional Hospital on Feb. 14, 2012 with a blue hospital house coat wrapped around her neck.She was also a psychiatric patient at the hospital.The inquest was earlier told that the young man - whose name is protected by a publication ban - had told nurses he had been with Perry in the amphitheatre but left because she was acting strange.Police considered the young man a suspect when he was questioned on the day after Perry's death, but he was released and no charges were laid.Two pathologists identified asphyxia due to strangulation as a probable cause of death for Perry, but they didn't have enough information to make a conclusive determination about how she died.The counsel for the coroner issued a summons for the young man to appear at the inquest but he declined because of his mental health issues. He is in another province, and the coroner doesn't have the power to force him to comply.However, lead investigator Const. Stephen Davidson read a statement the young man sent to the inquest. In it he says he was with Perry in the amphitheatre but he left after she was talking about an alien that was following her. He said that Perry said "Tonight's the night. It's coming tonight."He wrote that as he was leaving, Perry held onto the sleeve of his house coat and he slipped out of it, leaving it with her.Davidson told the court that DNA samples were taken and while the young man's DNA was found on the house coat, it was not found anywhere on Perry.Outside the coroner's court, John Gillis, lawyer for the Perry family, said he was disappointed that the man did not appear as a witness at the inquest."That witness not appearing really does a disservice, I think, to the jury who has been tasked with the difficult job of determining what happened to Serena Perry. Clearly he is a crucial witness," Gillis said.P.J. Veniot, the counsel for the coroner, played a videotape of efforts by Davidson to question the young man on Feb. 15, 2012.It shows Davidson explaining the young man his rights, but he seems lethargic and often said he didn't understand. Later, after speaking with a lawyer by phone, the young man said he would not give a statement to police.Outside the coroner's court, Perry's sister, Tasha King said she didn't believe the suspect had any difficulty understanding Davidson's questions.King said Monday's testimony allows her to understand why no one was charged."It clears up the evidence on why the police couldn't do their job and why there were no charges laid," she said.Davidson also told the inquest that he and other police officers tried tying a similar hospital house coat around their own necks. He said while they were able to get it tight, they could not get it tight enough to choke themselves or even pass out.The five member coroner's jury is to decide if the cause of Perry's death was suicide, homicide, an accident, or undetermined. They will also make recommendations on how to prevent a similar death in the future.Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said a patient had told police he had been with Serena Perry.

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