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Teen charged with murder in death of 15-year-old in B.C.

Laura Szendrei

Globe files/Globe files

Holding a photo of her slain daughter in one hand, a tissue in the other, Rachael Szendrei couldn't help but cheer as police announced an arrest in the case.

Fifteen-year-old Laura Szendrei died last September after a daytime attack in a Delta park. At a tearful news conference a couple of weeks later, the teen's parents begged anyone with information to come forward.

The grieving mother and father made another emotional appearance in front of the media Monday, as first-degree murder charges were laid against an 18-year-old man. Police did not release a motive for the attack, but said Laura did not appear to know the alleged assailant and the crime looked to be one of opportunity.

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The arrest, Mike Szendrei conceded, was not one he expected to see.

"At the beginning, I honestly didn't think the police would come through but they have," the father said through tears.

When his wife took to the microphone soon after, she told reporters she felt a sense of relief due to the arrest. But the sense of loss, grief and heartbreak remained.

"Daily we face the reality that Laura will not be in her room or at the dinner table. She won't be at the school, the soccer field or at family celebrations. She simply is not coming back."

The mother said she still does not understand exactly why her daughter was attacked, and expressed hope the truth will come out in court.

"As hard as it will be to hear, we need to know the truth."

Laura was on her way to meet friends Sept. 25 when she was attacked in a wooded area of North Delta's Mackie Park. The area was busy at the time of the attack, with several organized games underway. Friends heard the teen scream, but by the time they found her, the assailant was gone. She died in hospital the next day.

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Police have not disclosed the exact nature of the attack, saying only that Laura died of blunt force trauma.

Sergeant Sharlene Brooks, a Delta Police spokeswoman, said the accused was arrested without incident Sunday. She said he was 17 years old at the time of Laura's death and cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He was not previously known to police and made a court appearance Monday in Surrey.

Sgt. Brooks said the accused was one of several persons of interest identified by police but investigators believe he acted alone. Even though the attack was one of opportunity, Sgt. Brooks said the evidence supported the first-degree murder charge.

"There's two avenues in which someone can be targeted, specifically as a person or because an opportunity presents itself. We believe that an opportunity presented itself."

Ms. Szendrei said her daughter was full of promise. She previously mentioned that Laura wanted to be a nurse so she could help sick children.

The family held a special ceremony Sunday to unveil Laura's gravestone.

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"Laura does leave a legacy with us - her smile, her kind heart, her laughter, feisty and spirited nature and her passion for life. We miss her dearly," Ms. Szendrei said.

"The tightly woven fabric of our family has changed forever but we will always be a family of four. No one can take that from us."

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