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Probe into fire widens
Feds join investigation
Racial Burn 3 es
This house on Lanier Drive in northeastern Forsyth County burned to the ground about 4:30 a.m. Sunday. Investigators say the fire is suspicious. - photo by Em
Father of homeowner defends county.

Federal authorities may get involved as investigation widens into a suspicious weekend fire and vandalism at the northeastern Forsyth County home of a Barack Obama supporter.

The Sunday morning blaze destroyed the Lanier Drive home of Pam Graf, a single mother of three, who was in Washington D.C. for the presidential inauguration.

Someone also spray-painted graffiti, which included a racial slur and the phrase "your black boy will die," on a fence along the property.

Authorities also are trying to determine if Graf was targeted because of her support for the president.

Forsyth County Fire Marshal Steve Anderson interviewed Graf on Tuesday, but said he could not reveal specifics of their conversation.

The woman cut short her trip to the nation's capital and returned Monday to Forsyth, where she is now staying in a hotel.

Anderson said investigators are following leads in the fire, which they have labeled only as "supicious."

"At this point we haven't eliminated anybody (as a suspect)," he said.

Anderson said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is helping with the fire investigation. The local fire department is a member of the ATF's Metro Atlanta Arson Task Force and often works with them.

"We're in the process of making contact with the FBI," Anderson said. "That's for the graffiti. And I don't know if they're going to do anything, but we are going to advise them of it."

Attempts to reach Graf for comment have not been successful.

But her father, William Morrow, has said she removed an Obama campaign sign from her yard, at his request, after she received a threatening letter.

He said she removed the sign before leaving Friday with a friend for the inauguration. Graf's children, ages 11, 14 and 17, stayed behind elsewhere with family.

The fire occurred about 4:30 a.m. Sunday. The five-bedroom, nearly 3,000-square-foot home is insured, Morrow said. County tax records list the total value of the home at 255,490.

The Anti-Defamation League, which has fought anti-Semitism and bigotry since 1913, issued a statement calling the incident a "terrible reminder that even on this day of history, racism remains a virulent threat in America."

In the release, Bill Nigut, the league's southeast regional director, commended Forsyth County officials for their investigation of the incident.

Nigut also said he does not believe the incident reflects the feelings of Forsyth County residents, whom he called "people of good will who, like most Americans, are rallying around President Obama and wishing him well as he confronts daunting challenges."

Morrow, a longtime resident of the county, and others have said the incident doesn't represent the community.

Despite its strong Republican leanings, Forsyth County is home to many Obama supporters. The president received about 20.4 percent of the county's vote in the Nov. 4 presidential election.