Suspect charged in Marrisa Shen murder
More than a year after 13-year-old Marrisa Shen was found murdered in Burnaby's Central Park, a suspect has been arrested and charged in the shocking crime.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team confirmed one count of first-degree murder has been approved against Ibrahim Ali, a 28-year-old Syrian national who arrived in Canada just a few months before the killing.
New evidence put Ali on investigators' radar two weeks ago, and officers arrested him Friday in Burnaby. He remains in police custody.
On Monday, Shen's relatives released a statement through IHIT thanking the public for the hundreds of tips that were submitted to investigators and the police for following up on each of them.
"We hope that justice will now be served and that Marrisa can finally be at peace in heaven," the family said.
Court records show the offence date for Ali's charge is July 18, 2017, the last day Shen was seen alive. The teenager's body was discovered in the early morning hours of July 19, not long after her worried family reported her missing.
The crime stunned her Burnaby community, and triggered the largest IHIT investigation undertaken since the homicide team's inception. Supt. Donna Richardson said 2,300 investigative tasks have been completed so far in the probe, which is still ongoing.
Police announced early on that the murder appeared to be random, and Richardson said that has not changed over the last 14 months.
"We still believe that this crime was a random act, meaning that Marrisa did not know the subject and vice-versa," she said.
"As far as motive is concerned … I am not able to discuss these matters in order to protect our future judicial proceedings."
The charge against Ali – first-degree murder – indicates police believe the crime was planned in advance, or that another crime was committed at the same time, or both. Criminologist Rob Gordon said it’s possible the suspect went out with the intention of committing sexual assault.
"He may well have been pursuing her for a while," Gordon said.
Though authorities have not commented on the specific circumstances of the murder, IHIT was adamant that the crime had nothing to do with religious ideology. Ali is a permanent resident who was not known to police and does not have a criminal record.
Some social media users responded to Ali's arrest by making generalizations about people immigrating into Canada, something the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. cautioned against.
"This was a horrific case and we share the public's and the victim's family's desire for justice," the organization said in a statement. "At the same time, we wish to caution the public against stigmatizing an entire ethnic community for the allegedly criminal act of one individual."
Valentine Wu, a community activist and family friend, echoed those concerns. He told CTV News he's only interested in seeing the government do more to protect the public.
"I do not want to talk about any race or any … political party," said Wu. "I want to focus on community safety."
A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada offered the ministry's deepest sympathies to Shen's family, but could not comment on the specifics of the case as it is before the courts.
"Safety and security are always a top priority of the Government of Canada," Jean Paul Duval said in an emailed statement to CTV News.
"Canada has a robust, multilayered approach to refugees, designed by Immigration and Refugees Canada, DND, the Canada Border Services Agency, CSIS and the RCMP. It includes the identification of vulnerable applicants, professional interviews of every applicant, the collection of biometric data, and checking against Canadian and U.S. databases."
Shen's headline-making murder left some in Burnaby feeling vulnerable in the city's green spaces, a fear local RCMP have tried to assuage through an increased police presence, including more foot patrols, bike patrols and vehicle patrols.
Burnaby RCMP Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh said those high-visibility patrols are continuing "to ensure that everyone can continue to feel safe in our parks."
"We're dedicated to safety in our community," Burleigh said.
With files from CTV Vancouver's David Molko and Breanna Karstens-Smith
Ali is a Syrian national and a permanent resident of Canada. Officers are adamant this was not the result of some religious ideology. Appears to have been totally random @CTVVancouver— Breanna Karstens-Smith (@BreannaCTV) September 10, 2018
And this just in-- Arrest and charges in Marrisa Shen case. Court records search show a Ibrahim Ali, born 1990, charged with murder. We'll learn more in a media update from @HomicideTeam at 10am. So many questions about this. @CTVVancouver pic.twitter.com/jQ5Ydppn2l— David Molko (@molkoreports) September 10, 2018