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Death of 15-year-old girl leaves teens of community changed

A mother and son place a memento at the memorial of slain teen Laura Szendrei on Oct. 8, 2010, in Delta, B.C.

lyle stafford The Globe and Mail

Rick Riggs says it was very unsettling to see his 15-year-old son go to the funeral of 15-year-old Laura Szendrei, fatally wounded during a midday attack in a popular park late last month.

"A 15-year-old boy shouldn't have to attend a 15-year-old girl's funeral," Mr. Riggs told reporters Friday, not long after Delta police wrapped up a news conference at the park where Laura was attacked.

"I would say there's a change in a lot of his buddies, a lot of sadness," said Mr. Riggs, one of a number of interested bystanders during the briefing on the edge of Mackie Park. "As time passes, they will understand it's a part of life, that young people do die."

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Sergeant Sharlene Brooks, spokeswoman for the Delta force, said that police are working the case hard, but have not made any breakthroughs she can disclose. The tragedy has stunned residents of this community about 20 kilometres south of Vancouver.

At this point, police are not even in a position to say whether Laura was the victim of a random or targeted attack on Sept. 25.

At about 1:30 p.m. that day, police responding to a report of an assault found the teenager in a wooded area of Mackie Park in the north end of Delta. Laura had suffered serious injuries and died the next day in hospital, her family at her bedside.

Sgt. Brooks told reporters police were holding the briefing at the park in hopes the backdrop might spur someone's memory, prompting a call to police with a tip or observation.

"Regardless of how insignificant you feel your observations may have been, we're asking that you call Delta police," she said.

To date, the roughly 55 investigators dedicated to the case have been working their way through about 350 tips, she said. "There's no possibility we're discounting."

However, she said investigators have ruled out any links between the death and recent incidents involving the pepper-spraying of youths in Delta.

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She said police are close to identifying a 16- to 25-year-old man seen in the park, who they believe may have relevant information to the case.

She noted that the police emergency command vehicle that has been a fixture of the park will be leaving soon, but its departure should not be interpreted as a scaling-back of the investigation. "Quite the contrary. Even though we are concluding with our scene evaluation, the investigation continues," she said.

Still, she said, police are not planning any new updates soon.

Nicole Yuen, 15, was among a few teenagers looking on as Sgt. Brooks spoke. "We love Laura and we're here to see if there are any updates, if anyone found anyone," she said. Asked whether she was afraid, she replied: "We try not to be, but we have to be, because this is happening in Delta."

Mr. Riggs said the whole situation has area residents on edge. "The part that's concerning for me is the person, male or female, lives in this community. Whoever did this didn't jump in their car or bus and come in from Surrey, White Rock or what have you. They live here," he said.

In the meantime, youths are travelling in packs, and Mr. Riggs said he and many other parents are picking up their children at school. "You come over through our school at the end of the day," he said, "and you'll see so many cars out there they need crowd control."

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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