CALGARY – They’ve been brought together by the worst possible circumstances: two men who both lost siblings to homicide.
Dino Mariani lost his brother, Mark, five-and-a-half years ago. For Billy Tran, the wound is much more fresh; he lost his sister, Julie, last fall.
Mariani saw Tran on the news, struggling to cope with the tragedy, and decided he wanted to help.
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“Knowing there are other people out there who are kind of going through what we went through, and we were pretty fortunate that we had a huge support circle around us,” Mariani said. “There were times when we kind of felt alone, like it was only happening to us and our family.”
Mark Mariani was murdered after going to a video store in northwest Calgary Oct. 3, 2010. The 47-year-old had health problems and went into a back alley to empty his ostomy bag (which is used to collect waste from the body).
That’s where two white supremacists, Robert Reitmeier and Tyler Sturrup, boot-stomped and kicked him to death.
READ MORE: Neo-Nazi man appeals murder conviction in 2010 fatal beating
The Mariani family has been through countless court appearances, a jury trial, and two appeals.
“You feel like the whole world is crashing down on just you and what’s going on in your life, and when you start to look around you know there’s other people hurting,” Mariani said. “It wasn’t just us and it wasn’t just our family.”
Julie Tran was found murdered in a northeast Calgary home along with her caregiver, Selma Alem, in October 2015.
Alem was like a mother to Tran, who suffered a brain injury when she was just two years old. Alem’s son, Emanuel Kahsai, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in their deaths. On Monday, a preliminary inquiry date was set for the case for five days in November.
READ MORE: Son charged in stabbing death of mother, 2nd woman in Coventry Hills home
Tran says Mariani’s support has been a godsend.
“I absolutely needed the help. I’ve just found he’s been an incredible amount of support,” Train said. “It’s really nice to be able to talk to him, and have someone who understands what I’m going through, because I feel as though I’ve been going crazy.”
“He’s just there when I need him, I can call him when I’m feeling really weak and when I need a really good support system there.”
Mariani said he felt it was time to pay the support he received forward.
“It’s been therapeutic for me, like it’s been good for my heart and my soul to talk about it. And I guess it goes back to my brother, Mark, and he would have done it in a heartbeat. I know it’s easy to say I was doing it for Billy, but I’m getting a lot out of it as well.”
The pair is also joining a support group created by families of victims of homicide. For more information on the group, click here.
READ MORE: Nancy Hixt’s special series – Homicide Support
Watch below: Families of victims of homicide have been searching for help in coping with their loss. But without a support group in Calgary-they had been left to manage on their own. Nancy Hixt reports on May 2, 2014.