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Fire marshal won’t confirm racial motivations behind blaze at Obama supporter's house

POSTED: January 21, 2009 12:59 a.m.

CUMMING — William Morrow still is in disbelief, struggling to come to grips with the suspicious fire that destroyed his daughter’s house Sunday morning.

Perhaps most troubling was racist graffiti found at the site, hinting that the fire was deliberate and Pam Graf may have been targeted because she supports President Barack Obama.

No one was home when the house on Lanier Drive in northeastern Forsyth County burned to the ground about 4:30 a.m. Sunday; Graf was in Washington for Obama’s inauguration. Someone spray-painted graffiti that included a racial slur and the phrase "your black boy will die" on a fence along the property.

Forsyth County Fire Marshal Steve Anderson said Monday the fire is considered "suspicious," but would not say it was racially motivated.

"What we’re doing right now is we’re investigating a suspicious house fire," he said. "There are indications that there may have been some type of terroristic threat.

"We cannot verify that at this time, not knowing how [the graffiti] got there, who it was for, several things. But right now we’re just looking at it as a suspicious fire with suspicious circumstances."

Graf returned from Washington on Monday and was to talk with investigators.

The incident, Morrow said, "doesn’t represent the community."

"It doesn’t represent Forsyth County," he said. "And I just can’t believe this is what’s happening."

Marie Anderson, chairwoman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, agreed. In a statement released Monday night she said the group "condemns hate crimes of any nature."

"Should the allegations prove to be true, we as residents of Forsyth County, whether Republican or Democrat, Obama supporter or not, should be shocked and appalled that this type of incident would happen here in our county," she said.

"It is our hope that those who committed this crime be brought to justice as quickly as possible. We are very thankful that nobody was physically injured as a result of the fire."

Investigation is ongoing into the fire.

Lanier Drive winds along a heavily wooded peninsula dotted with homes that juts out into Lake Lanier. Crime scene tape wraps around the charred remains of the house. The foundation and what appears to have been part of the front of the house are all that’s left of the structure.

Forsyth Fire Capt. Jason Shivers said the house was "beyond fully involved" in flames when firefighters got there and it "had already experienced some structural collapse."

Stones with Bible verses etched on them line the path to what used to be the front door.

One of the stones quotes the book of Isaiah, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."



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