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Natalie Novak left her small Ontario town and found friends, excitement and love in Toronto. But in the wee hours of Monday, after a night out with her roommates, the 20-year-old Ryerson University student was stabbed to death in her bedroom. Her former boyfriend is accused of second-degree murder.

Police say the Toronto man was under a court order to stay away from Ms. Novak. But the young woman, who earned straight A's and was looking forward to an exciting summer in the city, let him back into her life. Now, as police investigate the city's 22nd murder and Ms. Novak's parents grieve the loss of their daughter, known to friends as Nat, the question remains: How could this have happened?

Ms. Novak arrived in Toronto three years ago and enrolled in the hotel management program at Ryerson. About a year later, police said, she began a relationship with a recently landed immigrant from Ethiopia whom she met at a store.

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In September, after an assault that did not cause Ms. Novak serious harm, a court ordered the man to sever contact with her, police said. But the couple continued seeing each other "on and off," Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux said yesterday.

On May 1, after completing her third year of studies and securing a summer job as a waitress, Ms. Novak moved to an old, split-level home at 28 Grange Ave., near the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street, with three other students.

Her parents travelled to Toronto and helped her move into the bedroom with a window overlooking the tree-lined street. She cluttered her closet with more that a dozen pairs of shoes and hung a painting depicting a scene from her youth: Northern Ontario's lakes and trees, painted by a relative.

Sean Kirby, a University of Toronto student who lived in the downstairs suite, said he spoke to Ms. Novak a few times and she "seemed like a nice, normal young girl." She and her roommates, two men and a woman, would often hang out on the rooftop patio outside her room.

According to police, on Sunday night Ms. Novak and her roommates went out for drinks. Her ex-boyfriend joined them and accompanied Ms. Novak back to her home at the end of the evening, police said

Just after 3 a.m., police said, an argument erupted in Ms. Novak's room. The shouting turned into screams, they said.

By the time her roommates forced open her door, Ms. Novak had suffered fatal stab wounds. Police say her killer crawled out her bedroom window, leaped eight metres from the balcony, and escaped. Police arrested a man 45 minutes later.

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Arssei Hindessa, 30, has been charged with second-degree murder. Police say he is unemployed and not a student. His next court appearance is set for May 23.

Behind the yellow police tape surrounding the home where Ms. Novak lived, a dozen white roses have been left along with a picture of a pretty, smiling brunette in a black dress and strappy shoes. A card from Ms. Novak's cousin, Alexandrea, reads: "Natalie, we miss you, remember you always."

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