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Vehicle burned at site of anti-gay hate crime in north Forsyth

NORTH FORSYTH — A northwest Forsyth couple lost a vehicle to fire early Wednesday morning, nearly two months after their home was the target of what authorities described as an anti-gay hate crime.

According to a Forsyth County Sheriff’s report, the small passenger car was fully engulfed in flames when deputies arrived about 1:55 a.m. at the home in a neighborhood off Hurt Bridge Road.

“Several sets of footprints” were reportedly noticed in the front yard, visible because of dew on the grass. “All of the footprints going through the yard angled directly” for the home, the report stated.

The homeowners told deputies they had not seen anyone approach the residence and did not walk in the yard themselves.

The footprints were tracked into the woods behind the home.

Teenagers have reportedly caused problems for the homeowners in the past, including throwing toilet paper in the yard and making slurs toward them. However, the incidents had never been enough for them to fear for their safety until June.

Since Wednesday’s incident was fire-related, the Forsyth County Fire Department is handling the investigation through its fire marshall’s office.

The blaze, which destroyed the vehicle, is not being considered arson by the fire department because there is not yet a cause or origin, according to Division Chief Jason Shivers.

“By the very nature of a vehicle fire, it’s hard to determine [those factors],” Shivers said.

This marks the second active investigation involving the address and person.

On June 30, unknown suspects took a rainbow flag from a holder on the front porch, set it on the vehicle in the driveway and ignited it, among other vandalism acts around the yard.

The rainbow flag, an international gay pride symbol, had replaced an American flag that usually hangs in front of the home the Friday before. That day marked the sweeping ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that immediately legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Georgia was not one of the 37 states where it had previously been allowed.

The initial vandalism caused an estimated $1,640 in damage, while costs to the vehicle were valued at $11,000.

Earlier this month, detectives said they had exhausted all leads and had no suspects in the crime.