Thursday, February 11, 2010

A death in the (Lucas County) family

Law enforcement officials (trailing Des Moines Register reporters by a few hours) have identified the victim of a fatal shooting that occurred just east of Chariton early last evening as Todd Peek, 37, shot in the chest by his 12-year-old stepson, Jacen Pearson. Five-year-old Cheyanne Peek, in the house with her mother, Sarah Peek, and another sister when the shooting occurred, somehow sustained a leg wound and remains hospitalized. Jacen, who reportedly ran from the house after the shooting and was found nearby a half hour later, is in custody in Des Moines, but has not been charged.

So this sad event has been the major topic of conversation around town today and many details remain unknown. The Register, which does an excellent job of covering small-town disasters but rarely pays any attention to us on the good days, is reporting two instances of alleged domestic abuse involving Todd Peek. Sarah Peek made the call in October of 2006 and abuse charges were filed against Todd, but later dropped. Jacen placed the call in 2008, but no charges were filed. So there’s an implication here, but no facts at least yet to back it.

It’s odd how many of us don’t know of each other any more in a place that is as sparsely populated as Lucas County. I’ve heard the name “Peek” but can’t place the family. I do know the neighborhood where they live, a quiet gravel route that with U.S. Highway 34 closing the “U” on the north forms a half-section loop just south of the airport.

Visiting this afternoon with a retired educator and former Chariton mayor who at one time “knew everybody,” it turned out he hadn’t heard of the family either. Neither had the third party involved in that conversation, also widely acquainted. Perhaps some of it has to do with age, but it does seem as if the ties that once bound rural places and the people who live in them together have become badly frayed.

There haven’t been that many killings in Lucas County as the years have passed. My cousin, the other Frank, in writing a new county history was able to confine the victims to one chapter. But I’m accustomed to knowing the victims --- an elderly acquaintance of my parents killed because an intruder thought he was rich (he wasn’t), the son of one of my dad’s close friends shot after a testosterone-fueled dispute, the young niece of a high school classmate inexplicably murdered by an equally young friend and most recently, a distant cousin shot down near Marshalltown with a companion by her estranged husband whom they were fleeing.

Known or not, all have been and continue to be heart-breaking and this latest killing is especially dreadful because children were involved. Pray for them, count your blessings if, like me, you were raised in a home where voices were rarely raised and violence was unknown and if tempted to violence, knock the temptation --- not the person --- down.

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