Local News

Arson evidence doesn't point to gay hate crime

Posted February 7, 2011

— Johnston County’s sheriff said Monday that there’s no indication right now that a fire set to a gay couple’s home last week is a hate crime, despite previous reports that the two had been harassed.

“As the investigation moves forward, if we see any indication that the hate crime status applies, we will consider it,” Sheriff Steve Bizzell said.

Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined sheriff’s detectives Monday afternoon in their investigation.

It’s unclear what started the fire, but a search warrant released Monday indicates that the blaze was set from within the home, in the Winston Pointe subdivision, off Guy Road just outside Clayton.

The couple did not want to talk to the media Monday, but neighbors have said the men have been harassed on several occasions over the past year.

Bizzell declined to comment on the current investigation but said his office has was aware of two previous reports – one on Dec. 10, 2009, in which someone put a note in the mailbox saying “move sinners” and a second complaint on Nov. 1 about a homophobic slur left on the back of the house.

Neighbors said the couple, which is in the process of moving to Georgia for a new job, had the home on the market for more than a year but that the owner took it off when it failed to sell.

Questions unanswered in Johnston house fire Questions unanswered in Johnston house fire

No one was home when the fire broke out sometime between 1:30 a.m. to 3:15 a.m. Friday. Neighbors called 911.

“I looked out my window, and I saw flames shooting 150 feet to 200 feet in the air,” said Alton McDonald. “The house was ablaze. The trusses were there, and within five minutes, the trusses collapsed.”

Meanwhile Monday, investigators were also searching for a white Chevrolet S-10 crew-cab pickup truck that was seen a few days before the fire towing a small trailer with a John Deere LA 115 riding lawn mower and a Troy-Bilt push mower.

Investigators believe the mowers might have been stolen from the home and ask anyone with information to contact the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office at 919-989-5010.


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  • musthavecoffee Feb 10, 2011

    Guess I didn't make it clear. Wasn't raised in Johnston.

    Kenneth B: Typical narrow-minded person who refuses to understand that there are other opinions other than his own.

  • christina6 Feb 9, 2011

    Nice to make jokes about people who have lost everything. Regardless of whether it's "hate crime" or arsen. Try to have some compassion.

  • oldrwizr Feb 9, 2011

    To the ridiculously named "godnessgracious":

    Evidence of arson? No, but it's evidence of hate which suggests the likelihood and at least possibility of a hate crime which in turn suggests that the LEO's should be investigating it as such rather than making asinine declaration of no evidence to the media. But I wouldn't expect a hater of those with different race or sexual orientation to understand that. Or to even understand that gay people's sexual orientation is just as natural and inborn in them as yours is in you. Why wouldn't it be?

  • NC_Full-O-Bigots Feb 9, 2011

    "My passenger window was broken into and $5 in change was stolen from a center console once. I bet it was a hate crime -- he hated me because I had money and he didn't."

    @ imwithcoffee----typical Johnston County response. Typical conservative response. Typical hater.

  • musthavecoffee Feb 9, 2011

    "Go figure because after all, this is Johnston County, the Capital of bigotry."

    I live in Johnston County, but let's see...
    -Grew up where there were really only two races, white and black.
    -Was raised in church, but was not raced to be racist or to hate.
    -Went to a liberal arts college in the Triangle.
    -Work in a majority-minority area.

    I had no idea I hated people because of where I live. Thanks for telling me how I feel about people different from me!

  • musthavecoffee Feb 9, 2011

    How do we know it wasn't that crazy serial arsonist who has been tormenting houses in Johnston County? I bet he did it to prevent homosexual couples from moving into those houses, including this new case.

    My passenger window was broken into and $5 in change was stolen from a center console once. I bet it was a hate crime -- he hated me because I had money and he didn't.

  • Arapaloosa Feb 9, 2011

    The discriminatory comments against Johnston County really show how arrogant and narrow-minded some of you are.

  • Arapaloosa Feb 9, 2011

    "Agents with the State Bureau of Investigation and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined sheriff’s detectives Monday afternoon in their investigation."

    The county, state and feds are all looking at this, and no evidence of a hate crime has been found. Why do some of you on here automatically assume it must be hate simply because they were gay and had a couple of harrassments over a WIDE span of time? (12/2009 and 11/2010)

  • capricorn7nc Feb 8, 2011

    racooper151-The sad part of what you said is that you really believe that it matters whether you are Liberal or Conservative when it comes to right and wrong. It never will matter and the facts are that what was done to this couple appears to be a hate crime to most people outside of Johnston County. No one was hurt, but if it turns out that this is based on bias against them being gay then the criminal(s) deserve a federal hate crimes charge attached to the other crimes they have committed. It's sad that we have to even mention the Feds getting involved for people who commit crimes to get the charges they actually deserve.

  • kjg1972 Feb 8, 2011

    racooper151 - Yes, I think we can agree that we are grateful that no one was hurt. However, if they were targeted for this crime because they were gay, then yes, the criminals deserve the extra punishment that comes along with a hate crime sentence. They are not just criminals, they are the bigots who held our country under a cloud of intolerance for decades before Civil Rights Legislature, the mysoginists who had denied women equal rights to men, and the ignorant and intolerant homophobes who continue to tell people that being a homosexual is a crime. I am not a liberal, I just happen to believe that everyone in this country is actually equal and that people who try to violently deny the equality of others based on race, gender, or sexual orientation should be cordoned off from the rest of society in a prison where they belong.