As Calgary police search for a man wanted in connection with a homicide in the southeast neighbourhood of Chaparral, the woman who died in the stabbing is being mourned by friends and family.
Carmel Christians was stabbed to death early Wednesday morning. She was staying with a friend after leaving an abusive relationship, according to neighbours.
Her friend was also stabbed after coming to her aid and is in serious condition in hospital.
The deceased woman's estranged husband, 65-year-old James Allan Christians, is being sought by police on a murder warrant.
Those who knew the victim describe her as a generous, much-loved friend and colleague.
Hard worker, say colleagues
Carmel Christians worked as a parts manager at Advantage Ford for many years. Staff say she was a hard worker — even demanding at times — but she had a soft side, especially when it came to her son.
"Her whole life was her son," said co-worker Greg Eagleson. "That was it. That's all she ever talked about.... It's very tragic and she will be missed."
She had been married for 20 years but recently had sought protection through the courts, saying for the first time her husband physically hurt her.
"Choking me, punching me in the face, verbally swearing at me, calling me names and threatening that he was going to end my life," read a court statement.
Along with the protection order, she began receiving help through a court-appointed agency called Home Front to help prevent it from happening again.
Took steps to protect herself
“Based on what was known at the time, I think this client took reasonable actions to protect herself and keep herself safe,” said spokesperson Kevin McNichol.
The death of the 55-year-old Calgary woman is raising questions about the options available to people in abusive relationships.
At the time of her death, there was an Emergency Protection Order (EPO) in place that prohibited her husband from making contact.
Brendan Miller, a lawyer specializing in family law, says an EPO can be effective in some cases.
"It's supposed to act as a deterrent, essentially to the respondent. If the respondent does breach the EPO, he is charged with a regulatory offence under the Protection Against Family Violence Act."
Protection orders won't end violence
However, Miller says an EPO will not stop someone intent on violence against a partner.
Jonathan McGregor, a manager at the YWCA Sheriff King Home, says it is unfortunate Calgary doesn't have the resources to monitor EPOs.
"It really is up to the victim to call police if there is a breach of that order," he said.
He said while shelters can connect abused women to social services, there is limited space in the city to flee domestic violence.
"At this point this year, we have turned away 1,700 women because of lack of space," said McGregor.
Contact shelters for help
Suzanne Shust, head of shelter services for the YWCA, says there are alternatives even when shelters are full.
She says women should contact a shelter and they can help decide if protection is needed.
"We have a tool called a danger assessment, that's how we help her to understand exactly what her level of risk is," she said.
"If we feel that she is very high risk, we will put her up in a hotel or call emergency social services who will also put her up in a hotel."
But Shust says the majority of women trying to escape abusive relationships do stay with family or friends.