Shane Casado is in jail facing second-degree murder charges in the death of his 22-year-old girlfriend, Rachel Wierzbicki.
Police say Casado, 24, shot her outside a home on Edson Street late Tuesday.
"It's heartbreaking, it's devastating, and by the time these unhealthy relationships get to the point that they turn lethal it gives us pause, because our job is to prevent this," said Mary Travers-Murphy, executive director of the Family Justice Center of Erie County.
The center provides free services to victims of domestic violence.
Travers-Murphy said abusive relationships often go unreported until it’s too late.
"The most important thing we can do is spell out the red flags to the public because it's people close to victims who see it, something amiss, and may not always have the ability, the confidence, and the words to have the conversation with someone they suspect is in an abusive relationship," said Travers-Murphy.
"It's tragic, it's difficult, and I really want folks to know that help is available," said Caitlin Powalski, an advocate with Crisis Services.
Domestic abuse is a public health issue that impacts the entire community, she said. The best thing to do to prevent it is listen to the person who says they're being abused.
"We really talk about listening and believing, and supporting people who are experiencing interpersonal violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault, because often we know the first person that someone reaches out to, the first person they ask to go to for help is going to help identify potential next resources,” Powalski said.
"The most important thing somebody can do if they suspect somebody they love or know is in an abusive relationship, is get them linked with an experienced, educated domestic violence advocate who can give them a safety plan and help them get their arms around the level of danger. And that's one of the things we do very well here at the Family Justice Center," said Travers-Murphy.
For more information or help, call Family Justice Center at 716-558-7233 or Crisis Services 24-hour hotline at 716-834-3131.