SURREY, B.C. — A man has been charged with murdering a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in a Metro Vancouver park over a year ago in a crime that caused people in the community to feel unsafe, police said Monday.
Marrisa Shen was last seen in the evening of July 18, 2017. When she didn't return home, her mother called police, and officers found her body in a wooded area of Central Park in Burnaby early the next morning.
On Monday, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Ibrahim Ali, 28, had been charged with first-degree murder, two weeks after police became aware of him.
Supt. Donna Richardson, the officer in charge of the team, said Ali is a Syrian national who moved to Burnaby as a refugee 17 months ago. She said the permanent resident of Canada is employed and has family in Canada but she couldn't provide any other details pending the judicial process for the man who is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Friday.
None of the allegations in the case have been tested in court.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Richardson said the investigation that involved 600 interviews and the elimination of over 2,000 persons of interest was one of the largest in the history of the team since its formation in 2003.
"We still believe this crime was a random act, meaning that Marrisa did not know the suspect and vice versa," Richardson told a news conference, adding the investigation involved multiple RCMP detachments and municipal police forces.
The Immigrant Services Society of B.C. issued a statement after receiving media interview requests about the arrest and charges: "This was a horrific case and we share the public's and the victim's family's desire for justice for Marissa. At the same time, we wish to caution the public against stigmatizing an entire ethnic community for the alleged criminal act of one individual from that community."
Shen's family thanked the public for their ongoing support in a statement read by Cpl. Frank Jang of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
"We are aware that so many people reached out to the police to provide information and we are so grateful for that," the family said as they asked for privacy.
"We hope that justice will now be served and that Marrisa can finally be at peace in heaven."
Captured on security video
Shen was seen on security video entering a Tim Hortons about 10 minutes after she left home at 6 p.m. and she was last seen around 7:30 p.m. walking near the coffee shop. Shen's mother reported her missing at 11:30 p.m. and the girl's body was found 90 minutes later, police have said.
Her family has said the girl planned to travel and visit friends in China the summer she was killed.
A year after her death, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team held a news conference near the wooded area where Shen's body was found as Jang appealed for help from the public and said police had no suspects despite following up on 200 tips.
With a file from Andree Lau
Earlier from HuffPost Canada: