Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gay Man's Home Torched in Hate Crime

The Newton, North Carolina Observer News Enterprise is reporting that a gay man's home was covered with anti-gay graffiti and then torched.

Melvin Whistlehunt was at work when he got a call from his mother at 2:30 a.m. Friday that his home was engulfed in flames.

As firefighters began hosing down the house at 1275 Buffalo Shoals Road, it became clear the home was set on fire intentionally. What they found launched an immediate hate crime investigation.

The fire was intense, but it didn’t keep Jason Drum, chief of the Bandys Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, from noticing graffiti written across the back of the brick home within five minutes of arrival. Someone used white spray paint to write a derogatory message referring to sexual orientation and race.

Drum asked Whistlehunt’s mother, who lives next door, if the graffiti had been there. She told him it was new.

Whistlehunt said everyone who knows him is aware he’s gay, but few people have outwardly criticized him for it.

“I don’t know of anybody who would go this far,” he said.

As soon as Drum found the writing, he called the Catawba County Fire Marshal’s Office. He said he felt that it was important to get them started on their investigation right away. The State Bureau of Investigation arson unit and the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office are also involved in the investigation.

“It is considered a hate crime,” said Karyn Yaussy, Catawba County emergency management coordinator.

SBI Investigator Mark Bivens used an arson dog to search for evidence of accelerants, however Yaussy would not comment on whether any was found. However, she said there were multiple indicators aside from the writing on the wall that the fire was set intentionally.

“I’ve been in the fire service 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Drum said.

The articles continues here.