House Destroyed After Woman Finds Burning Cross
FRIENDSHIP - A rental home where a mother with three biracial sons lived burned to the ground only days after she says people set a wooden cross ablaze in her yard.
Both sheriff's deputies and FBI agents are investigating the Friday morning fire at the home of Loretta Marie Slaughter-Shirah, saying they believe it to be arson.
Slaughter-Shirah said the nearly 6-foot-tall cross, draped in a white sheet, was set on fire last week. In the time since, she took her children to live with her mother nearby her destroyed home.
No one was home at the time of Friday's fire."I thought I had the right and freedom to live where I wanted to live," said Slaughter-Shirah, 23
, a Louisiana native who only moved to Hot Springs County two weeks ago.
Deputies arrested Jacob Wingo, 19, on charges of terroristic threatening and aggravated assault over the cross burning. Jailers said Wingo posted bond shortly after his arrest Thursday.
Hot Spring County Chief Deputy Richard Tolleson said there could be other suspects in the reported cross burning and it was still under investigation.
Yvette Briggs, Wingo's mother, said he turned himself in to authorities earlier and "told the truth."
"It was all a joke
," Briggs told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "He's got mixed friends. He's got black friends
- he does not hate people. If he knew it was considered a hate crime, he would never have done anything like that."
She said he couldn't have been involved in Friday's house fire because he was with his father after bonding out of jail.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment on what agents had found so far.
"If an individual places a burning cross in front of someone's home with the intent to intimidate, that could be a federal violation of the civil-rights statutes," said spokesman Steve Frazier.