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Homicide investigation launched in Burnaby following death of 13-year-old girl

Stephanie Ip, Postmedia Network

Marissa Shen, 13, was found dead soon after being reported missing.

Marissa Shen, 13, was found dead soon after being reported missing.

A 13-year-old Burnaby girl reported missing at 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday was found dead less than two hours later in a popular city park.

Burnaby RCMP said Marissa Shen’s body was found in Central Park — in the brush near Patterson Avenue, not far from her home — at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

The investigation into her death has been handed over to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

“The initial investigation suggests she was the victim of a homicide,” IHIT spokeswoman Cpl. Meghan Foster said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “Until we confirm more facts in this case, the risk to the public, if any, is unknown.”

“This is an opportunity to remind your kids, and all members of your family, in fact, about the importance of personal safety and to not take it for granted.”

Foster said investigators have no suspects at this time.

Shen, who was due to start high school in the fall, was last seen at home Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Her last contact with her family was a phone call at 5 p.m. Police said there were minimal details of her whereabouts at the time of the call.

Many details into a cause of death are unknown, police said.

Police want to speak to any witnesses in the area or anyone who knew Shen.

The entrance to Central Park in Burnaby was behind police tape Wednesday as investigators scoured the area. A wooded trail that runs from the pitch and putt golf course towards the tennis courts was closed by police. The golf course remained open.

Park users were generally stunned about the police presence.

“Yeah, of course, it’s absolutely shocking,” said Peter Bach after his weekly jog. “I have a 12-year-old daughter myself and an 11-year-old. I’m just stunned.”

Diane Nguyen just moved to the area from Montreal. Fresh off a run through the park, she said the news won’t make her change her jogging venue.

“It’s really sad,” she said. “But things like this happen in big cities.

“I could change parks, but what’s to say the same thing couldn’t happen there?”

Kathy Lynn, a longtime speaker on parenting who is based in Vancouver, said the tragic death of the teen should remind parents to speak to their kids about staying safe.

“Parents can certainly remind kids about being aware of where they are and who is around. If they don’t feel comfortable, they should get to a safe place like a friend’s house, a store or a police station,” Lynn said.

“Don’t be brave. If you are not comfortable do what you have to do to be comfortable.”

Teens should always try to go out with a group of friends and not on their own.

Lynn said cell phones may give teens and parents a false sense of security.

“All it is is a phone. It doesn’t do anything. Having a phone doesn’t mean you don’t pay attention and look after yourself,” she said.

But even following all the precautions one can, there are times where parents have no control.

“The reality is we don’t always have control. In this day and age we feel like we should always have some control and sometimes we don’t,” Lynn said.