Racial slurs, swastika painted near Ohio house that exploded; hate crime probe underway

The homeowner said that if she and her husband had been home, "nobody would have survived that."
An early morning house explosion in Wayne County, Ohio on Aug. 7, 2019 is being investigated as a hate crime
An early morning house explosion in Wayne County, Ohio, on Aug. 7, 2019, is being investigated as a hate crime.Wayne County Sheriff's Office

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A house explosion in Ohio is being investigated as a hate crime after investigators found racial slurs and a swastika on the home's garage and two of a neighbor's cars, authorities said.

The house in Sterling, about 50 miles south of Cleveland, collapsed in the blast early Wednesday morning, according to the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department.

No one was injured because the couple living in the home had moved out last month after an electrical fire, according to NBC affiliate WKYC. They were planning to move back in Sept. 3.

Sheriff Travis Hutchinson told reporters Wednesday the explosion was being investigated as an intentional hate crime.

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"We're not going to tolerate that type of activity and behavior here," Hutchinson said. "We're going to make sure that we use all the resources available to us, including the FBI, state fire marshal and our office, and any other agency we need to bring in to fully investigate this."

Construction crews had reported a gas leak at the home Tuesday, and a deputy responded, Hutchinson said. The deputy did not find any graffiti or slurs at the time.

A sign in the yard of the destroyed house offers $5,000 to anyone who can provide authorities with information that leads to the person who started the fire.

Homeowner Angela Fraze, who is black, told WKYC that she and her husband have lived in the home for 23 years, are close with their neighbors and have never had a problem on the sleepy dead-end street.

She said she loves the area, which she said has a "quiet country feeling," but that her husband is shaken and has already decided not to rebuild. He is afraid whoever blew up the house will target them again, she said.

Fraze said that if she and her husband had been in the home at the time of the blast, "nobody would have survived that."

"It’s a total loss. It’s like, where do you go from here?" she said. "Where do you start over; what do you do next?"

In addition to grappling with the destruction of her home, Fraze said the slurs made her "feel sick at my stomach."

"To live here this long and nothing ever happened, now all of a sudden? You know, where’s it coming from now?" she said. "Why all the hatred? It's 2019. Come on. You know, there's no need for this. None."