BURNABY — A man has been charged with murdering a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in a Metro Vancouver park, police said on Monday.
Marrisa Shen was last seen 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, has 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 has been tested in court.
Richardson said the investigation that involved 600 interviews and the elimination of more than 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.
Chief Supt. Deanne Burleigh, the officer in charge of the Burnaby RCMP detachment, offered condolences to Marissa’s family.
“While I understand that there is some relief at the announcement of an arrest, I am mindful of the devastating loss that they have suffered since the day of Marrisa’s murder,” Burleigh said.
“To our community in Burnaby, I want to express my gratitude for your patience,” she said.
“Throughout this investigation, Marrisa’s murder shook our community and it questioned the safety of the park. We have, and we continue to conduct, high visibility patrols on foot, on bikes and in our vehicles to ensure everyone can continue to feel safe in our parks.”
Marissa’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.”
Marrisa 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 about 7:30 p.m. walking near the coffee shop. Her 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 Marrisa’s body was found as Jang appealed for help from the public and said police had no suspects despite following up on 200 tips.