Human Interest

woman in queens stabbed, neighbors ignore victims cries
Segundo Penafiel

Neighbors Ignore Screams as NYC Woman Is Stabbed to Death

August 25, 2008 01:25 PM
by Rachel Balik
Neighbors listened but did nothing as a woman in Queens was allegedly attacked by her ex-boyfriend and stabbed to death with a knife.

Neighbors Ignore Young Mother’s Cries for Help

Neighbors who heard 21-year-old Ebony Garcia, the mother of a toddler, crying for help assumed she was drunk, and dismissed her cries for help as her ex-boyfriend allegedly stabbed her 12 times. One neighbor told the New York Daily News, “She was screaming, ‘Help, help, he stabbed me on the neck, I'm bleeding from the neck!’” The neighbor failed to respond to Garcia’s distress, however.

Garcia had come to her cousin’s condo after drinking at a bar with her ex-boyfriend, Segundo Penafiel. Penafiel had beaten her before and she had a restraining order against him, but after she left the bar, he followed her to her cousin’s apartment. Garcia called another cousin from out of state, asking for the cousin’s help when Penafiel began fighting with her at the apartment, according to reports. Unfortunately, the cousin and her mother were unable to get through to New York City 911 until approximately 2 a.m.

Police found Garcia in a pool of blood outside the apartment on the street at 2:10 a.m. She had been lying on the street, crying out for help to passing cars.

Although she was alive when the police arrived, she died soon after her arrival at the hospital. Garcia’s cousin told the New York Post, “She was outgoing, really free-spirited and intelligent.” Another cousin told the Daily News, “She was in a bad situation,” but “she was a young girl, a good girl.”

Related Topic: Bystander Apathy

While neighbors may have made a judgment call based on what they assumed was Garcia’s drunken condition, they also may have been suffering from bystander apathy, also known as Genovese syndrome. The term Genovese syndrome was coined in 1964, when 38 people allegedly witnessed a woman named Kitty Genovese being stabbed to death, also in Queens. Genovese was attacked by Winston Moseley at 3 a.m. under a streetlamp close to her building. Moseley went after Genovese three separate times over the course of 30 minutes, but no one came to her rescue. Neighbors who could see or hear the attack from their apartments said they didn’t want to get involved, or assumed it was “a lover’s quarrel.” 

A similar incident occurred more recently in Hartford, Connecticut. On May 30, 2008, an elderly man was severely injured in a hit-and-run accident, and lay in the middle of the street until the police arrived. Although bystanders called 911, they did not make any effort to help the man out of the street or to see if he was all right.

Psychologists have determined that when there are many witnesses to a crime, each individual assumes that someone else will step in to help, and therefore feels that inaction is acceptable. Victims often have a better chance of survival when there is only one witness.

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