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Anti-gay hate crime probe ongoing in northwest Forsyth

NORTH FORSYTH — Investigators are continuing to follow leads in last week’s apparent anti-gay hate crime that targeted a northwest Forsyth resident’s home, though they haven’t released any information on a solid suspect.

According to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, no one has been arrested or charged in connection with the vandalism, which most notably included the burning of the homeowner’s rainbow flag on a vehicle in the driveway and damage to a peach tree and front yard.

It is not clear whether anyone has been questioned in the incident, which the sheriff’s office was quick to describe as “an obvious hate crime.”

The homeowner, whose name is not being released, told authorities she has had problems with neighborhood teenagers in the past due to her relationship. The June 30 incident, however, left her fearing for her family’s safety.

Since that time, no further vandalism or criminal acts have occurred at the home, said Robin Regan, a spokesman with the sheriff’s office.

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a traditional one, like vandalism, whose motivation is based on beliefs against a race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or ethnicity.

Georgia is one of five states that don’t have a hate crime law, so any suspects charged would not face that specific count.

But the sheriff’s office has previously noted that committing a hate crime can change the classification of a traditional crime, resulting in stiffer penalties during sentencing.

The rainbow flag, an international gay pride symbol, was removed from the front porch of the home in a neighborhood off Hurt Bridge Road sometime between 10:30 p.m. June 29 and 9:45 a.m. June 30. According to a report obtained by Forsyth County News, it was then ignited on top of the windshield of a car in the driveway.

Neighbors stated they had heard their dogs barking, something they normally do only when there is activity or people on their property, about 1 a.m. Tuesday. However, they did not see anything unusual when they checked on them.

The incident caused an estimated $1,640 in damage, according to sheriff’s reports.

Flowers were also pulled from the garden in the front yard, rocks were found throughout the area and the bark was stripped from the full-grown peach tree.

Burn marks were found on the road in front of the home and encircling the vehicle.

The homeowner stated in the report that an American flag usually hung in front of the house, but that on June 26 she had replaced it with the rainbow flag.

That morning marked the announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, effective immediately. Georgia was not one of the 37 states that had previously allowed such unions.