by Tracy Holmes, Black Press
A man who served a 22-year sentence for the brutal sexual assault of a museum worker in Abbotsford in 1991 has been charged with the murder of a Surrey teen.
Raymond Lee Caissie, 43, was arrested early Saturday in Vancouver and has been charged with the second-degree murder of Serena Vermeersch (in photo), 17.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) held a press conference Monday morning to announce the charges, but, at that time, there was some confusion about a publication ban around Caissie’s name and police would not name him.
The ban was lifted late Monday afternoon.
The body of Vermeersch was found on the evening of Sept. 16 in an area densely covered in brambles, near railway tracks in the 14600 block of 66 Avenue in Surrey.
She was last seen after 8 p.m. the day before, boarding a transit bus near 128 Street and 64 Avenue.
She was discovered less than four hours after police issued a public appeal for help locating the teen. The discovery prompted a community warning, urging citizens to use caution and common sense when outdoors alone or after dark.
Vermeersch’s death was quickly deemed a homicide, as well as a random attack, and Chief Supt. Bill Fordy said investigators worked around the clock to identify and locate the person responsible.
At Monday’s press conference, IHIT Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound would not comment on how Vermeersch died.
Caissie was the subject of a public warning in June 2013, when he was released from prison after serving a 22-year sentence and was living in Surrey.
Caissie pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault with a weapon, one count of robbery and one count of unlawful confinement in relation to the incident that occurred on July 21, 1991.
On that day, he entered Trethewey House – the home of the MSA Museum Society – on Ware Street, and came across a lone 21-year-old female student who was working there for the summer.
He threatened her with a knife, forced her to strip, and then twice sexually assaulted her.
Caissie then drove with the woman until they came to the south end of Gladwin Road, where he took her to a secluded wooded area on the American side of the border.
He forced her to perform a sex act, tied her to a tree, and left.
Two days later, he grabbed a purse from another woman before being picked up by police. He was convicted of robbery for that incident.
Earlier this year, Caissie was sentenced to two more charges, receiving a three-month sentence for failing to report to his parole officer and a 21-day jail term for shoplifting at a Surrey Winners store.
In a statement read by Pound, Vermeersch’s family said they are appreciative of the support and kind words received in the wake of their daughter’s death, but declined to comment further.
“We respectfully ask that our privacy remain undisturbed.”
Tributes to Vermeersch quickly appeared, and continue to grow. There are now bouquets of flowers next to a telephone pole near where her body was found, and dozens of comments posted to her Facebook page follow her own last post, dated Sept. 13 – a photo of herself with the status “I’m lonely.”
The comments describe the teen as “an angel” who will be missed.
“You were a beautiful girl inside and out and going to be greatly missed by your family members and many, many friends. You will live on in our hearts and will never be forgotten,” writes Dennis Thalmann.
“May you RIP and may your family have all the love and strength they need to get through this. So happy they caught him. Another beautiful young lady taken too soon,” writes Naomi McGeachy.
– with files from Vikki Hopes and Kevin Diakiw