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This article was published 27/3/2012 (3469 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They were married four years ago in a big church wedding in the Philippines, a new life in Canada ahead and everyone full of smiles and dreams.
It ended half a world away with Renelle Bermudez Nonato slain, and her husband, Julito Nonato, dead in the same apartment. He took his own life. In the wake of this outburst of violence, a child is orphaned and a family is desperately searching for answers from across the sea.
For now, there are only questions, and the fragments of a loving family's broken dreams.
"She went to Canada for the future," said Renelle's brother, Louie Bermudez, from his home in Brunei. "It's been very difficult for us. I love her so much."
On Saturday afternoon, six hours after police discovered their bodies in their Maples apartment, they were carried out together, wrapped in burgundy fabric and laid gently inside a coroner's black van. Renelle died from multiple stab wounds, the seventh homicide in Winnipeg this year. She was 28 years old.
The couple's three-year-old son, discovered in his bed in the suite, was placed in the care of family in Winnipeg.
This is not how the Bermudez family thought Renelle's story of hope would end. The youngest of four close-knit siblings, Renelle followed her husband to Winnipeg after their marriage. She gave birth to their son, and got a good job working at a shipping company near their Jefferson Avenue apartment.
She loved leading a simple life, her brother said, and was proud of what she earned. She sent money back to the Philippines to pay for their mother's medications. And the family talked, as often they could, bridging the time difference with countless midnight calls.
Renelle would hold her son up to the phone so the boy's uncle could hear him. So they would know each other.
She never hinted to her family anything was wrong in her marriage. Julito Nonato seemed like a good husband, Bermudez said. Now, he wonders what happened before last Saturday that Renelle could not tell them: Was she beaten? Was she afraid?
More questions, and still no answers. Until they come, the family finds strength in their faith, believing she has been reunited with their father in heaven. "My sister never told us anything," Bermudez said. "She might have kept it with her heart to protect her husband. All we knew was everything was fine."
If she did hide her fear, she would not be alone. Statistics of domestic violence paint a grim picture, but the names of the lost reveal the heart of the sickness: Renelle was the third woman allegedly killed by a domestic partner this year in Winnipeg.
On March 9, police discovered 38-year-old Belinda McKay stabbed to death inside her downtown apartment. Her boyfriend, 27-year-old Lenny John Keam, has been charged with killing her. The city's first homicide of the year, on Jan. 23, claimed the life of 34-year-old Alche Feshaye Kidane, a recent immigrant from Eritrea. Her husband, Teklu Tesfamichael Mebrahtu, is charged with second-degree murder.
Now, the violence has stolen another daughter. This is why Bermudez wants people to know about his sister. "Domestic violence should be stopped," Bermudez said. "Please help us to stop this."
The family was to be reunited next month. Renelle's older sister had been approved to immigrate to Winnipeg. "Our only dreams were to be together as one family again after long, long years," Bermudez said.
Now, their only dream is to bring her home to the Philippines. It's a tricky process, and an expensive one for a family of modest means. But Bermudez pledged they will be together again.
"We are waiting for her coming," he said. "We are waiting, and waiting, and we will wait. If only I can go there and stay beside my sister, I will do it. I will be there beside her."
Melissa Martin reports and opines for the Winnipeg Free Press.