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Alleged murder of Windsor woman marks region's 4th case of femicide in last two years, says advocacy group

In the wake of a first-degree murder charge being filed against a Michigan man for killing his estranged wife, a 36-year-old Windsor woman, the head of an emergency shelter for women and children says femicide is a growing problem in Windsor-Essex.

In fact, the alleged homicide of Sahra Bulle marks the fourth femicide in Windsor-Essex within the past two years, according to a local advocacy group.

Ten days after Bulle, a student at the University of Windsor, was last seen, police arrested 45-year-old Brian Aaron Marbury in connection with her death.

Even though officers have yet to confirm if they have found Bulle's body, police said they had "signficant evidence" to charge Marbury.

"We have seen femicide growing in the community, around the province and around the country," said Hiatus House executive director Sylvie Guenther.

Hiatus House is an organization that provides support and resources for women and children who have experienced intimate partner violence. It serves as an emergency shelter that offers temporary housing, counseling and other services to help survivors.

For staff, tackling the issue head-on can be a major challenge since most incidents of intimate partner violence go unreported.

"The only way that we really have to confirm them is through media reports, such as this one," Guenther said, pointing to data which shows an increased need for protection from abusive partners and family members.

Numbers provided to CTV News show Hiatus House has an "annual expectation" of 250 women and 160 children.

In its last fiscal year, however, the shelter admitted 375 women and 180 children.

"So it's important that we talk about it and make sure we are letting people know that femicide is real and it doesn't discriminate for race, financial situation or reputation," said Guenther.

Missing person poster for Sahra Bulle, 36, in Windsor, Ont. on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Travis Fortnum/CTV News Windsor)

In a statement released Wednesday, the Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee of Windsor-Essex said there have been more than 14 femicides in Ontario alone in 2023.

These disturbing statistics, combined with the harrowing fact that every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her current or former intimate partner, are stark reminders that this is not an isolated incident," the committee's statement reads.

"Intimate partner violence is an epidemic that demands immediate attention and resolute action. Enough is enough."

But non-reporting isn't the only obstacle preventing Hiatus House from supporting as many at-risk individuals as they would like.

According to Guenther, the shelter is struggling to meet the needs of their clients due to a lack of funding.

"We need the support of our funders, our local governments and our communities to make sure that the system is well supported, because we struggle to do what we do within the resources that we have," she said.

Bulle's mother, Fartumo Kusow, has spent the last week posting flyers around the city and appealing to the community for any information on her daughter's whereabouts.

In response to Bulle's estranged husband being charged with first-degree murder, Kusow said she has been left "shattered by this terrible news."

"I have no words to describe the depth of my sadness and height of my rage," Kusow said in a social media post Tuesday evening.

"Please continue to pray for my daughter’s eternal peace and my family’s patience as we get through this unimaginable loss of a beautiful daughter, sister, granddaughter, cousin, friend and an aunt lost too soon."

Forensic investigators with the Windsor Police Service continued an active investigation Wednesday on the 1900 block of Northway Avenue near Huron Church Road — after first occupying the area Tuesday around 1 p.m.

However, police did not confirm to CTV News if the Northway investigation is tied to the search for Bulle's body.

Windsor police were expected to hold a media briefing Wednesday but have since informed CTV News it has been postponed and will likely take place Thursday.

For anyone experiencing family violence, Hiatus House encourages those individuals to contact their 24/7 help line at 519-252-7781 where staff will assist them with establishing a safety plan.

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