Exclusive: Mother of teen victim wasn't told murderer had escaped
Published Tuesday, April 18, 2017 5:40PM PDT
Days after a notorious murderer walked away from a minimum security prison in the Fraser Valley, the mother of his victim is asking why he was being held there, and why she wasn't told of his escape.
Robert Raymond Dezwaan strangled 16-year-old Cherish Oppenheim in 2001. Her body was found in the woods near Merritt in October.
Dezwaan confessed to killing her, and was sentenced to life in prison in 2003. He'd been serving that life sentence when he went missing on Friday afternoon.
The 53-year-old's escape triggered a police manhunt in the area surrounding Mission Institution, which ended with his arrest by RCMP in Agassiz at approximately 11 a.m. Saturday.
Dezwaan was arrested more than 50 kilometres east of Mission, across the Harrison River, but officials have not said exactly where he was found. They're still investigating how he managed to escape the facility in Mission.
Shelley Oppenheim Lacerte, the mother of Dezwaan's victim, said she was in disbelief when she heard of the killer's escape.
"Of course the hurt and the memories come pouring back," she said of the moment she learned the news.
In an exclusive interview with CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson, Oppenheim Lacerte said her family didn't know he'd been transferred to a minimum security institution located just two hours away.
"He was on the loose and we had no idea where he could be, if he returned to Merritt," she said.
"For him to be able to walk out like this just doesn't seem right. There's something wrong with the system."
She said was bothered by the fact that she had to learn of the escape through the media. She wasn't told she had to contact Corrections Canada to sign up for alerts on the case.
She also didn't know that Dezwaan first applied for day parole last May, a request that was rejected by the parole board. Documents from the board said he continued to minimize his crimes, most likely harboured deviant sexuality and was rated a high to moderate-high risk for both violent and sexual recidivism.
"I had no information provided on that. This is the first I've heard about that," Oppenheim Lacerte said when CTV News told her.
"It appears CTV and other people know more than our family does. Nobody has spoken to us or communicated with us in what is happening."
She said she was relieved that Dezwaan was captured the day after his escape, but wants to know more about where he's being held now.
"We're going through a hurtful time again and to imagine they would put him back in minimum security is an insult to our family… I hope that's not happening and I hope they extend his time in jail," Oppenheim Lacerte said.
It's been more than 15 years since Cherish's death, but the pain of losing her is still raw.
"It has literally torn our family apart," her mother said.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson