CLAYTON, N.C. — A fire that gutted the home of a gay couple who had been victims of harassment for more than a year, is being investigated as arson, and possible hate crime.
The couple, who did not want to be identified out of fear for their safety, were out of town when the fire broke out early Friday morning.
A neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash against her, said there have been at least three separate incidents of anti-gay harassment at the home. A note with derogatory language was left in the mailbox, an anti-gay slur was written on the house with marker, and the tires of a car parked in the garage were slashed, the neighbor said.
“For this to happen here… it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I can’t even put into words how horrible it is for them.”
Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell confirmed that the sheriff’s office was aware of two of those incidents, but would not say which two. He would not confirm whether they are related to the arson investigation.
Another neighbor in the subdivision said he feels sorry for the male couple because they lost everything. He and others in the neighborhood believe it was a hate crime.
Investigators are still trying to determine if the blaze was a hate-crime.