House Explosion in Ohio Being Investigated As A Hate Crime

Authorities in Ohio are investigating a house explosion as a hate crime after racial slurs and a swastika were discovered on the home’s garage and on two of the neighbor’s cars.

The home, located in the 6700 block of Spruce Street in Sterling, Ohio, was destroyed in an early morning explosion on August 7, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department said. No one was injured in the blast because the home was unoccupied following an electrical fire on July 3.

The homeowners planned to move back into the home on September 3, WKYC reported.

Sheriff Travis Hutchinson said the home’s garage and two of the neighbor’s cars were spray painted with racial slurs and a swastika. He said the blast was being investigated as an intentional hate crime, according to NBC News. Authorities believe the fire that caused the explosion was intentionally set.

“We’re not going to tolerate that type of activity and behavior here,” Hutchinson told reporters on August 7. “We’re going to make sure that we use all the resources available to us, including the FBI, state fire marshal and our office, and any other agency we need to bring in to fully investigate this.”

Hutchinson said that construction crews reported a gas leak in the home on August 6. The local utility company then shut off the gas to the house. Electricity in the home had already been turned off — the lack of gas and electric service to the house raised officials’ suspicions about the origin of the fire.

A deputy who responded to the scene on August 6 did not find graffiti or slurs, the sheriff said. Wayne County Sheriff’s deputies and fire officials received a 911 call at about 12:40 a.m. They found the home engulfed in flames with a side of the home blown out, CNN reported.

Special Agent Vicki Anderson of the FBI’s Cleveland Office told CNN that the agency was aware of the incident.

The home was owned by an interracial couple. Angela Frase, who is Black, told reporters that she and her husband, who is white, had lived in the home for 23 years without any major problems. She learned about the explosion from a neighbor who called her around 12:47 a.m.

Investigators initially told Frase that it was possible that someone had caused the explosion with a cigarette and that the person responsible may have died in the fire, The New York Times reported. No human remains were found at the site, Brian Bohnert, a spokesman for the Ohio fire marshal’s office later clarified.

Frase said that her husband was taking the explosion particularly hard and that the couple has decided not to rebuild their new home on the same property. “We decided that whatever happens, we’re not rebuilding here,” she said. “We’re not coming back. We’re done.”

The heartbroken homeowner said the couple was shocked by the racial slurs. She referenced President Trump and said that ending racism and hate begins at the country’s top executive.

“For one person that runs our country, some of the things he has said that I think has stirred up a lot of racism and hatred in our country that doesn’t need to be,” she said, according to WKYC. “To live here this long and nothing ever happened… Now, all of a sudden. Where’s it coming from now?”

“We are appalled by this apparent hate crime,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Cleveland said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Racism has no place in Ohio or anywhere.”

James Pasch, regional director of ADL Cleveland, told The North Star that the organization reached out to the FBI following the explosion and said the ADL was glad law enforcement had decided to investigate the blast as a hate crime. Pasch said ADL Cleveland will continue to work with law enforcement during the case.

Fire marshals will search through the home’s debris to locate an accelerant and to help determine the cause of the fire, WKYC reported. Captain Doug Hunter of the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office told reporters that authorities were not aware of any security cameras that might have video footage of the arson.

Hunter said there were no suspects as of the afternoon of August 7, The New York Times reported. The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.