Twenty-year-old Symone Hughes of Menomonee Falls was supposed to be a nurse — a career that fit her nurturing personality, her sister, Claudria, said. She had just started nursing clinicals and was supposed to graduate from Milwaukee Area Technical College in 2021, said Claudria, who declined to provide her last name for this story. Hughes was stabbed to death Sept. 1. Her ex-boyfriend, Hasani Monroe, 20, was charged with first-degree intentional homicide Sept. 4 in Waukesha County Circuit Court. The two had dated for about 2½ years. They broke up just hours before Hughes’ death, Claudria said.
Claudria and Hughes’ aunt Briann Morris want people to be aware of domestic violence. Morris raised $1,648 through a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses. The campaign has since been closed. “It (the GoFundMe campaign) was also to share her story and to create awareness,” said Morris. “My message would be to seek out help if you are in a domestic violence relationship.” “She was silently crying for help,” Morris said of Hughes.
One in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
‘I keep looking for signs’
While Claudria said Hughes and Monroe’s relationship may have had challenges, she never thought Hughes’ life was in danger. “I was in disbelief,” said Claudria. “I don’t think I really processed it (Hughes’ death).” Hughes did not talk much about the relationship, her first serious one, said Claudria. At least 56% of the victims of domestic violence in the state are reportedly killed when a relationship ends or when one person begins taking steps to end the relationship, according to the 2019 Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report.
“It is not uncommon for the homicide to be the first, only and last act of physical abuse,” said President and CEO Carmen Pitre of Sojourner Family Peace Center, an agency that offers violence support services and a crisis line. “Also, many times, domestic violence homicide victims had been isolated from friends and family — which contributes to the surprise or suddenness expressed by other people.” Claudria said it seemed in recent months that Hughes was calling her more frequently and wanting to meet with her more. Since her sister’s death, Claudria has asked herself whether this could have been a way of reaching out because of problems in the relationship. Looking back now, she wonders whether she should have somehow known. Claudria said she sensed there was stress in the relationship. At times, Claudria said, Hughes seemed drained. “There were signs that she was dealing with a lot, and it has taken a toll,” Claudria said. “She tried to do everything on her own. We did not know (Hughes was in danger) but maybe we should have. I keep looking for signs.”
Breaking up with her boyfriend
Claudria said she last saw her sister at about 8 p.m. Sept. 1, when they met for dinner. She said Hughes had just broken up with Monroe. “She said she did not want to talk about it,” said Claudria. “She seemed tired and more soft-spoken. She seemed like she wanted to cry.” Claudria said she did not press her to talk. “I gave her a hug,” Claudria said, thinking she would ask her about the breakup later. When Claudria called Hughes at 11 that night, Hughes was in bed. Claudria said Hughes said she was tired, but everything seemed OK. “I think she was trying to reach out to me, but Symone is someone to not want to need help,” said Claudria.
The Menomonee Falls Police Department received a call at 11:45 p.m. from Monroe for a potential domestic violence incident. When police arrived, Hughes was non-responsive on the ground and not breathing. She had a stab wound in her upper chest and there was a large bump on the right side of her head. Claudria said she wishes her sister had reached out, that she had disclosed more about the insecurities of the relationship. She would have been there to support and help her sister, she said. “I wish she said that she is scared and does not feel safe,” she said. “I would have told her that it is OK if things do not work out. We should have these uncomfortable conversations.”
Domestic violence by the numbers
Domestic violence claimed 72 lives in Wisconsin in 2019, compared to 47 in 2018, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report, compiled by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. In the Milwaukee area, the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee helps more than 11,800 clients a year, according to its website. The agency offers a crisis line, advocacy to survivors and domestic violence support services. The Women’s Center in Waukesha helped 650 adults and children in 2019 through its domestic abuse advocacy program, which facilitates safety planning, connecting to legal resources and developing coping skills. Its awareness and advocacy programs reached about 17,566 individuals, according to its annual report.
Telling a person in a domestic violence situation that they should leave, should call the police or should handle a situation differently is not helpful, said Angela Mancuso, executive director of The Women’s Center.” ‘Should’ is the least supportive language,” said Mancuso. Telling someone what they should do can alienate them, she added. Mancuso said she encourages others to be nonjudgmental. Being authentic, sincere and nonthreatening is a better approach, she said. “They know themselves better and know when the right time is to leave. You can’t force it,” she said, although she acknowledged that can be frustrating “It can take a lot of patience, and there is nothing easy about it. It is difficult to navigate their safety,” Mancuso said. “It is a complex dynamic.” Pitre said it is important to check in with friends and family. “We need to normalize checking in on each other regularly and not just in times of crisis or concern,” she said. “Let them know the abuse is not their fault, that they are not alone and that help is available,” she added. “Be sure to get emotional help for yourself, too.”
Calling for help
Mancuso encourages people to take advantage of 24-hour crisis lines, even if it’s just to talk over a situation. “We encourage people to call with general questions,” said Mancuso. “It is healthy to talk it through, move forward and making sure no one is in imminent danger.” If a situation escalates, Menomonee Falls Police Capt. Eugene Neyhart said officers are trained in situations related to domestic violence, including de-escalation tactics, legalities and more. Much of their training — even training not directly labeled as domestic violence training — can be useful to officers responding to those kinds of calls, he noted.
If you need help
The Women’s Center offers a 24/7 crisis line at 262-542-3828 and provides emergency shelter, legal advocacy, transitional living and housing assistance, and employment coaching.
In the Milwaukee area - Sojourner Family Peace Center offers a 24/7 crisis line at 414-933-2722 and domestic violence supportive services.
For domestic violence resources statewide, visit endabusewi.org/get-help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 800-799-7233.
Hope House of South Central Wisconsin number is 800-584-6790
September 11th, 2020: Pastor Michelle Blackmon, Age 52
The gunshots that killed a woman were overheard by students on a virtual school class. The homicide happened last Friday morning at a home in the 6800 block of West Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee. According to a criminal complaint, Mario Stokes, 45, of Milwaukee, admitted to fatally shooting his sister in their home. Police said Michelle Blackmon, 52, of Milwaukee, was found dead in the kitchen. An autopsy showed she had two gunshot wounds to the head. Investigators said the shooting happened a day after an argument between the brother and sister. Another sister told police she heard the gunshots and saw her brother leaving the house. He told her, “I’m on my way to the police to turn myself in,” the complaint said.
According to an incident report by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, a child was home at the time of the shooting and in a virtual class. The gunshots were overheard by classmates and a teacher. The teacher called 911 to send officers to the student’s home.
Stokes walked into District 4 police headquarters and told the desk sergeant “his sister no longer existed, that he did it and that he used a .380,” the complaint said. A gun was found in the home. Stokes was arrested and charged with one count each of first-degree reckless homicide with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm. In 2014, he was found not guilty due to mental disease or defect to charges of disorderly conduct and possessing a gun by a felon. A judge ordered Stokes to undergo mental health treatment. Stokes appeared in court Tuesday via video conference. A judge ordered him to undergo a mental evaluation. A doctor’s report was scheduled to be reviewed by the court on Oct. 5. If he is found competent to stand trial and is convicted, Stokes faces up to 60 years in prison.
A Rice Lake man has been charged with homicide in Barron County after the death of a 23-year-old Chetek man. Court records show Andrew Brunette, 25 of Rice Lake, has been charged with first degree intentional homicide. Brunette was arrested Sept. 20 in connected to the death of Garrett Macone, 23 of Chetek. According to the investigation, Macone was in a relationship with Brunette’s wife. Brunette and his wife were separated. The criminal complaint says a 9-1-1 call was made to the Barron County Dispatch Center on Sept. 20 from Macone’s mother saying she had found her son dead on the front patio outside her Chetek residence. The document goes on to say law enforcement found his death to be suspicious. It appeared that Macone had two gunshot wounds to the back of his head and his bedroom “was in disarray”. When speaking with detectives, Brunette told them he had come back home the morning of Sept. 20 to get more clothes. He grabbed his gun and headed to the residence where Macone was sleeping in bed. Brunette went on to say he aimed the gun at Macone’s head before contemplating his options and backing away. He said he then reconsidered his options and decided to go through with it and pulled the trigger. He stated he shot a second time to make sure he was dead and then also found his cell phone, smashed it and threw it in the woods behind the house. Macone’s cause of death was the gunshots to his head. A $1,000,000 cash bond has been set for Brunette and he is scheduled to appear in court next on Sept. 28.
Superior police have arrested a man in connection to the death of his mother in the city’s Central Park neighborhood. Authorities responded to a home in that area just before 7 a.m Tuesday. They were responding to a 911 call reporting a person in need of medical attention. Once on scene, they found Cindy Bennett had sustained “significant trauma.” She died at the scene. Police arrested Cindy’s 39-year old son. Authorities say the two got into a fight and she died from injuries she got during the altercation. The son is currently being held at the Douglas County Jail. Superior Police say there is no danger to the public at this time.