updated 10/16/2008 7:12:50 PM ET 2008-10-16T23:12:50

A man accused of burning a cross in front of his home says he was arrested in a misunderstanding over his Halloween decorations.

Thirty-six-year-old Shane Helson said he wanted to make his annual yard display more authentic and set fire to the T-shaped wooden cross so it would look more weathered.

The fire department responded Tuesday night, and a police complaint said Helson continued to spray lighter fluid on the wood after authorities arrived.

He was charged keeping a disorderly house, a misdemeanor barring people from allowing conduct on their property "which is offensive or tends to disturb the public peace and quiet."

If convicted, he could face up to 30 days in jail.

Helson is white, as is next-door neighbor Stephanie Blankenship. But her husband is black, and Blankenship says they have had problems with Helson and his roommate before and she feels intimidated.

She recalled that the cross that was charred this week had been used in their display last year. "They had a fake dead person hanging on a cross," she said. "They do go crazy with Halloween."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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