Saint John police have suspect in hospital death

Saint John police have a suspect in the suspicious death of a hospital patient last month, the chief has confirmed.

Oland homicide investigation also ongoing

Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid suggested the suspicious death case will be solved soon. ((CBC))

Saint John police have a suspect in the suspicious death of a young psychiatric patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital last month, the chief has confirmed.

But the male suspect is not in custody, Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid told CBC News Tuesday night.

He declined to discuss any other details, saying police are waiting for DNA and pathology evidence.

"At this point in time we're waiting for the rest of that evidence and to go any further then I would obviously be treading on very thin water and I wish not to do that," Reid said.

"Once we have that, we have our very strong suspicions and we believe we know what's going on, but you can't go into a court of law with suspicions and suppositions. You have to go in there with something very strong."

Serena Perry was found in the hospital's amphitheatre. (Courtesy of Castle Funeral Home)

Serena Perry, a 22-year-old patient in the psychiatric unit at the Saint John Regional Hospital, died over night on Feb. 14.

Her body was found in the amphitheatre, which is in another section of the facility.

Many patients in the psychiatric unit are free to come and go, just like anyone else in the hospital. They can leave the unit to go for a smoke, visit the cafeteria, or just to stretch their legs.

Hospital officials have said there's no risk to public safety.

Few details

Police have faced criticisms for being tight-lipped on the investigation.

"The circumstances are very unusual and so because of that we have to be very cautious," Reid said. "It's sort of one of those situations where it's a card game and you can't play your hand. And unfortunately, vicariously through the media, we have to be very closed about that at this particular time.

"But once we solve this — and we will here I believe in the not too distant future — then everybody will see why we were...the approach that we utilized in this particular matter," he said.

"We have competing interests here, I hope you appreciate. We have a family that’s grieving and wishes not to discuss the death of their daughter. So we have to say 'Well what does the public need to know? What can we hold onto?'"

"It's not the normal way that we deal with these." stressed Reid. "I think that every time we talk about crime we're very forthcoming about those, but there are one-ofs and certain occasions where you just have to hold on to the information and this is certainly one of those situations."

Oland homicide case continues

Saint John police have also faced scrutiny for the secrecy surrounding Richard Oland's homicide investigation.

The prominent 69-year-old businessman was found dead in his uptown office on July 7. No charges have been laid.

"We had seized a significant amount of exhibits and they have to be processed and then they have to be analyzed. And that takes a long, long, long time," said Reid. "And so we have to be patient with the work that third parties are doing on our behalf."

Asked if he expects to lay charges soon, Reid said "I don't have a crystal ball to give me that information.

"We’re not the only police agency in Canada that’s asking crime labs to do work for them so we submit and we wait."