Raymond Lee Caissie is awaiting sentencing for the murder of Surrey teen Serena Vermeersch. (Photo: RCMP)

Crown, defence seek 17 years no parole in Surrey teen’s murder

Judge reserves sentencing for Raymond Lee Caissie in Serena Vermeersch’s murder until Oct. 20

The Crown and defence have made a joint submission for Raymond Lee Caissie to not be eligible to apply for parole for 17 years, as he serves his mandatory life sentence.

Caissie, 46, pleaded guilty last Thursday to second-degree murder in the 2014 killing of Surrey teenager Serena Vermeersch.

While Caissie was expected to be sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster today (Sept. 21), Judge Gregory Bowden has reserved his decision until Oct. 20.

“I would like to give some consideration to the sentence,” Bowden said.

On Thursday morning, the court heard, Caissie choked Vermeersch until she was unconscious after riding on the same bus with her.

When she exited the bus, he got off too and followed her for four blocks. She then turned down a dark path she used as a short cut home.

When he caught up to her on the path, he marched Vermeersch 580 feet to a secluded area at the edge of a cedar mill, where the teenage girl pulled an X-acto knife out of her purse and slashed Caissie’s neck, leaving a wound that required 22 stitches.

Crown prosecutor Colleen Stewart said Caissie then choked the teen unconscious and decided to kill her to silence her, given his lengthy criminal record dating back to the 1980s.

“His background is abysmal,” she said. “He has repeatedly terrorized women.”

In a different case Caissie had followed a woman off a bus, like he did with the Surrey teen, and attacked that woman with a pen.

Stewart said Caissie tore a strip of cloth off of his shirt and wrapped it around Vermeersch’s neck. He then took her purse and left.

Her mom filed a missing person’s report that night.

A Surrey Search and Rescue team found the 17-year-old girl’s body on Sept. 16, 2014, near railway tracks in the 14600-block of 66th Avenue in Sullivan.

Caissie, 43 at the time, was arrested the following week in Vancouver and charged with second-degree murder. He has spent most of his life behind bars for sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement, robbery, theft, and other crimes.

Stewart read victim impact statements from Vermeersch’s family and friends. “Why didn’t I pick her up at the bus stop?” her mom’s statement read. “I regret it over and over. I failed her.”

She said she feels “nothing” for Caissie now. She did hate him, she said, but decided that didn’t change anything.

Vermeersch’s sister said she used to think things like this happened to other people. “Unfortunately, we are all ‘other people’ to someone else,” she said. Vermeersch’s long-time boyfriend said in his victim impact statement her death has left him numb, “broken and twisted.”

The family didn’t speak with reporters but a family friend, Diana Hutchinson, did outside court.

“He is not mentally stable to be let out. He cannot be let out. What other innocent child is next? We can’t have this,” Hutchinson said.

Meantime, during the hearing Defence lawyer Troy Anderson said Caissie has been having psychiatric and psychological problems since he was a child but added his client is “not offering any excuses” for his crime.

Dressed in red prisoner garb, Caissie didn’t address the court but Anderson offered an apology on his behalf.

“He is standing here taking full responsibility for what he did, knowing that is all he can do,” Anderson told the judge.

Caissie had been out of prison for six months when he killed Vermeersch. The Corrections Branch put out a public notification bulletin on him on June 14, 2013, revealing that the “high-risk sexual and violent offender” was “currently on bail supervision” and living in Surrey.

Dianne Watts, Surrey’s mayor at the time, had predicted he would re-offend and expressed outrage that he’d been released into her community.

Corporal Frank Jang, of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Unit, said police and Crown Counsel “worked tirelessly to secure all of the evidence relevant to this investigation. A guilty plea, in any homicide investigation, speaks to the efforts and dedication from all agencies involved.”

Surrey RCMP Staff Sergeant Dale Carr recalled Surrey residents outrage at the time of the murder. “This was a tragic and senseless act that devastated a family. The Surrey RCMP High Risk Team played a key role in identifying Caissie which led to his arrest just days after the murder.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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