IMMOKALEE - On Sept. 4, 2020, Cindy Peel was found stabbed to death in her upscale home in the City of Naples. Officials reported she was killed by her husband, Robert Barnes, who then took his own life with a knife.
Ironically, only one television outlet covered the crime. Buried on page 10 in the local daily newspaper, Cindy’s murder fell second to news of Tigertail Beach improvements. If a man had stabbed a stranger to death in downtown Naples, we would have read about it for days, but when he kills his wife inside their home, it doesn’t even merit a sidebar.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and this horrific crime is reminder that domestic violence does not discriminate; it crosses all age, ethnic, economic, and geographic boundaries. Cindy Peel’s life was taken by the very person to whom she once entrusted it and in the very place she should have been the safest – her home.
Even before COVID-19, domestic violence was on the rise in Collier County. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Collier County had 39 more domestic violence offenses in 2019 than 2018, including one murder, 41 forcible rapes and 228 aggravated assaults. Thousands more went unreported.
It is up to each of us to be vigilant for the signs of domestic violence. Failure to recognize and report these crimes puts the entire community at risk because violence at home does not stop at the front door. It infects our workplaces, schools, social circles and places of worship. It costs us millions of dollars in medical care, social services and lost wages.
Cindy Peel was a mother, a grandmother and a talented artist who cared deeply about her community. Today, according to national statistics, she will be joined in death by three more women. Outside of their families and immediate communities, few will hear anything about their murders. And when we do learn of it, the news value will somehow be minimized by the fact that the killer was a spouse and not a random stranger.
The truth is, no one is safe from domestic violence. It is a crime against all of us, for if we cannot end violence in our homes, we will never end violence in our community.
If you know someone affected by domestic violence, call The Shelter’s 24-hour crisis hotline at 239-775-1101. For more information on how to recognize and act on the signs of domestic violence, go online to naplesshelter.org/help