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NYC family of mother found dead concerned cases of missing Black women lack media attention

As the death of Long Island native Gabby Petito has dominated headlines, one New York City family says they’re concerned the stories of missing Black women don’t receive enough attention.

News 12 Staff

Sep 29, 2021, 2:25 AM

Updated 1,024 days ago

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As the death of Long Island native Gabby Petito has dominated headlines, one New York City family says they’re concerned the stories of missing Black women don’t receive enough attention.
Destini Smothers was a mother of two from Troy, New York. In November 2020, she visited Queens with her boyfriend Kareem Flake for his grandmother's funeral when she went missing.
Flake told Smothers’ mother the night before the funeral that her daughter got mad and jumped out of his car.
Four months later, Smothers’ body was found in the trunk of Flake’s car with a bullet wound in her head.
"We believe that he should have been questioned immediately,” says Maurice Williams, Smothers’ cousin. “Destini was found in the car that he said she jumped out of on the highway, the night that she went missing. He was supposed to be questioned. To us, he is the number one suspect."
However, Flake hasn't been questioned to the families’ knowledge and hasn't been seen or heard from since last year.
As the highly publicized search continues for Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito's boyfriend, Smothers’ family asks why the police hunt for Smothers’ boyfriend and father of her children is radio silent.
"It breaks my heart. This bothers me tremendously - that there is a big search for this guy who killed Gabby and not the same attention paid to my family,” Williams says.
"Missing white woman syndrome" was a term coined to describe the saturated coverage of missing white women in media compared to the relative lack of coverage of missing people of color.
The murder of Smothers happened in Queens in the district of New York Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson.
"The issue of attention doesn't exist as it relates to folks of color because we are not prioritized as important,” Anderson says. “There are a number of these cases. There are just so many of them that we just become exposed.”
Anderson says the NYPD and police in Troy didn't operate in haste to find Smothers even after she was reported missing. He is now pushing a bill in Smothers’ honor to protect domestic violence victims from tragedy like hers and Petito’s.
"What process would have done is said this couple had a history of domestic violence, of volatile incidences, we need to treat this with a little more care. And that is what failed here,” Anderson says.
In the meantime, Smothers’ family says they are suffering, and there doesn’t seem to be an answer in sight.
Smothers’ family will be rallying outside of the Queens District Attorney's Office on Oct. 1 to demand answers.


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