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Grieving parents of Laura Szendrei appeal for help

Mike and Rachael Szendrei, parents of Laura Szendrei who was murdered in Mackie Park in Delta September 25, 2010, talk during a press conference in Delta, October 13, 2010.

Jeff Vinnick/Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

As Laura Szendrei's weeping, distraught parents looked on during a news conference, the spokesperson for Delta police admitted they are not expecting any breakthrough any time soon in the daylight slaying of the 15-year-old.

Two weeks ago, Mike and Rachael Szendrei buried their daughter. She had been found severely injured as the result of an attack at about 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 in a popular park in this community about 20 kilometres southeast of Vancouver. She died the next day.

"It's not anticipated that we're going to have any additional information for the days and weeks that come," Sergeant Sharlene Brooks said on Wednesday at the news conference, the first event where Ms. Szendrei's parents have spoken to the media.

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But Sgt. Brooks said there was a reason for the appearance by the Szendreis, who each delivered statements from a podium in a room at a municipal building but took no questions from reporters.

"There are few things that motivate people to perhaps change their mind if they know something and come forward than a mother and father standing before you, and grieving openly and vulnerable, asking for help," Sgt. Brooks told reporters.

"We hope that will turn the side."

Mr. Szendrei, red faced and choking back tears as he struggled to get through a written statement, said he had always seen himself as a protector and provider for his wife and two daughters.

"I am enraged that someone has taken my daughter, Laura, who was precious and innocent and full of life. I loved her with all my heart, and she knew that," he said.

"I am not the type of guy to ask for help, but today I am asking," Mr. Szendrei added, urging anyone with information to call the police.

Laura's mother echoed the plea. "If you know anything or know who is responsible for Laura's death, please call the Delta police. We need you to help them."

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She noted that "every parent's nightmare" was now her family's "unthinkable reality."

Sept. 25, she said, began like any Saturday for her family with the expectation that all would reunite in the evening.

"As you know, that never happened," she said. "We were called to the hospital where our daughter lay fighting for her life. We stayed with her and we were all by her side when she died early Sunday morning."

But Ms. Szendrei also provided some sense of the nature of the girl, who has been central to a tragedy that has stunned this community.

She remembered her daughter as lively teenager, not inclined to clean her room, but intent on getting married, having four children, and also becoming a nurse to "make sick kids feel better."

"She was strong in nature and had a feisty spirit full of potential and promise," Ms. Szendrei, struggling to speak, told reporters.

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"We will always be a family of four despite the despicable actions of another, who took our Laura from us," she said.

Both parents thanked the community for its support. "The closeness of a community like Delta is something we take for granted, and just don't fully realize until a time like this," she said.

Sgt. Brooks said police are working their way through more than 360 tips - "a significant amount of information we're sorting through" - but have nothing new of substance to report.

On Thursday morning, Delta police said in a statement that the plea by Ms. Szendrei's parents had generated less than a dozen tips overnight, but did not characterize the information.

"It was very hard for Mike and Rachael Szendrei to come forward but they too wanted to help in any way possible," said the statement .

They have yet to determine whether the attack on Ms. Szendrei was random or targeted.

Nor have they found a man, described as 16 to 25, who was seen in the park around the time of the attack and is thought to have information that might help the investigation.

She noted that police were not in a position to say whether there were links between the mysterious attack on Laura Szendrei and other assaults on women in the community.

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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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