A Warren County, Tennessee gay man is pleading for help – from anyone – after local and state law enforcement can’t seem to stop vandals from attacking his home and spraying painting death threats on the side of his house and barn.
Neal Anthony, whose home has been the target of at least eight attacks over the past year, lives in fear, and wonders why state and local law enforcement can’t (or won’t he says) put a stop to the crimes. The latest attack occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, May 23, 2008.
The vandals had a well planned mission to destroy – they cut cables to all the security cameras Anthony had installed so their actions would not be recorded. They broke out security lights, cut phone lines and power to the house, and left hate filled messages spray painted on the side of his historic home that his family built in 1851.
“I need help up here, my nerves are shot,” Anthony said. “I just don’t know what to do.”
Anthony, whose mother (Dorothy) passed away in December 2007, was horrified to see the message “Dorthy N Hell” scrawled out in green spray paint on the side of his house.
“Fag die” and “We Will Kill” were messages spray painted in white paint on the side of his red barn in September 2007.
“I’m sitting up here like a sitting duck and law enforcement just doesn’t seem to care,” Anthony said.
Just as he’d done many times before, Anthony notified the Warren County Sheriff’s office on Friday morning about the hate crime. Two investigators came out and Anthony said they looked around, told him they took some finger prints and then left.
His partner also notified the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), but Anthony said he had little faith that much would be done to catch the criminals.
“They’ve not done much up till now,” he said. “This is a small rural area. You know that people know who’s doing this. I think if they wanted to find out who was doing this and put a stop to it, they could.”
His partner also talked to Warren County Sheriff Jackie Matheny, who told him that he too had been the target of vandals. That, Anthony said, made him feel that the Sheriff wasn’t taking the case seriously.
It’s been just over a year when the vandals started attacking the home. In March 2007, vandals hit the house with more than 80 paintballs. Then, in April 2007 the first spray paint attack occurred, where Anthony’s family home was covered with anti-gay slurs such as, "Fags deserve 2 die," "All gays go to hell," and "Queer son of bitch."
In May 2007 the ACLU of Tennessee asked the Warren County District Attorney’s office to request assistance from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to investigate the hate crimes.
Christine Sun, the GLBT attorney for the ACLU of Tennessee, sent a letter to Warren County District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis requesting that her office ask for assistance from the TBI and that the crimes also be reported to the FBI.
Zavogiannis’s office did prosecute three teenagers who admitted to the March 2007 incident of shooting more than 80 paintballs at Anthony’s home, but the Juvenile Court judge who heard the case did nothing more than place the boys placed on probation, ordered to write an apology and mow yards for five weekends.
Tennessee state law expressly provides for enhanced penalties for crimes against a person or property that are motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s belief or perception regarding the race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry or gender of the victim (TN STAT. § 40-35-114).
“People need to know what’s going on up here in Warren County,” Anthony said. “I need help. I need for this to stop. . .I’m living in fear of my life.”