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Tears, fears at emotional memorial for slain Burnaby teen

Harrison Mooney and Nick Eagland, POSTMEDIA NETWORK

Dozens gathered Saturday night at a memorial for Marrisa Shen, the Burnaby teen whose body was found in Central Park four days ago.

Shen, 13, was reported missing at 11:30 p.m Tuesday and her body was found in the southeast area of Central Park at 1:10 a.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, police revealed that her death was a homicide and that they did not have a suspect or motive for the killing.

On Saturday, friends and neighbours headed to Central Park to attend a small memorial organized by Valentine Wu, a member of the local community. Wu explained that he had no connection to the family, but as a father to two girls, the incident hit home for him.

"I'm very sad and shocked, concerned about my daughters' safety," he said.

Wu said that his goal in putting together the memorial was to do his part to prevent violence by ensuring that sure young people were doing what they could to stay safe.

"I think my purpose is to (make) more people aware of what happened and educate teenagers about their personal safety," he said.

Several of Shen's schoolmates left flowers and tears at the memorial, including Sicy Liao, who met Shen a year ago in ESL class. The two had bonded over hip hop music, she said, and ate lunch together.

"We were best friends," she said. "She is really quiet, but she is really kind to us and really nice to us."

Liao was still in a state of disbelief. She learned about Shen's death when a friend called; she thought someone was playing some kind of cruel trick on her.

"It's not funny, stop it," she said, before Googling her best friend and learning that it wasn't a prank.

"I saw it," she said. "I still think it's a joke."

At least one member of Shen's family attended as well, but he asked not to be identified. He did speak to organizer Wu, expressing his gratitude without giving away his connection to Shen.

"The family would thank you for this," he said. Later, he asked a family friend to lead the crowd in a moment of silence.

Police continued their search of Central Park on Friday, where most yellow tape barricading the area had been taken down. Just outside the park’s southeast parking lot, flowers, a candle and stuffed animals had been left in a makeshift memorial for the teen.

A student handbook from Moscrop Secondary School, where Shen was meant to start Grade 9 in the fall, had been placed there with a message: “We are in your community and our hearts hurt for what has happened. May peace find you.”

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has so far kept tight-lipped about their work to find Shen’s killer, holding back information such as the apparent cause of death and the nature of a telephone conversation Shen had around 5 p.m. the day she went missing.

IHIT spokeswoman Cpl. Meghan Foster said Thursday that evidence gathered by investigators had not yet indicated whether Shen was targeted or was the victim of a random attack.

On Thursday, IHIT released surveillance video from an apartment building near the crime scene showing Shen apparently walking toward the building hours before she was last seen leaving her Burnaby home at 6:02 p.m. Tuesday. Investigators hoped it might trigger a memory in someone who had seen Shen that night.

Foster was not reachable for an update on IHIT’s investigation Friday, but on Thursday she stressed the importance of the public coming forward with whatever information it may have.

“Ms. Shen was a good kid and she’s missed dearly by her family right now,” Foster said. “They’re in the initial stages of grieving and we’re working and doing the best we can to find those responsible, and we need the help of the public.”

Anyone who may have seen Shen after 6 p.m. on Tuesday is asked to contact investigators at 1-877-551-IHIT or ihitinfo@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

neagland@postmedia.com

twitter.com/nickeagland

With files from Francis Georgian