Woman in Merced Finds Swastikas on Her Lawn

May 22, 2009 7:00:54 PM PDT
Merced Police are investigating a possible hate crime after someone burned swastikas into an African American family's lawn.Frances Martin had only been living in this North Merced neighborhood for less than a week when she discovered this swastika on her lawn. The white supremacist symbol has left she and her family scared and stunned.

Frances Martin couldn't believe her eyes when she spotted this swastika burned into her front lawn.

Frances Martin said, "Shock, disbelief. Because my son had just cut the grass, and I was wondering what are these brown spots here, so I walked down on the sidewalk and looked and was like, no, this is not real."

The 69 year old grandmother just moved into this home last week because she wanted a safe place to raise her granddaughter when her own daughter begins a 400 day deployment to Iraq at the end of the month.

"Now, when I called her yesterday and told her what happened, don't you let my child outside, don't let her ... I cannot. 8 years old, you can't keep her in the house. So now she's fearful for her child to even go outside," said Martin.

When Martin called police, one of the responding officers discovered another smaller swastika had also been burned into the yard. Investigators believe the culprit used some type of common chemical. But they say this is an uncommon crime for Merced, and one they are taking very seriously.

Cmdr. Floyd Higdon said, "We're taking it as a hate crime, and that's a very serious crime. It actually triggers a special report that's mandated to be sent to the state regarding this very issue."

Martin says the one bright spot in this scary scenario has been the support she's received from neighbors who have stopped by with hugs and offers to keep an eye on her property. Pete Devries says he wants the family to feel welcome despite what he believes was a hateful prank.

Pete Devries said, "I think it probably was kids. I'd hate to think adults were going around doing that."

Regardless of who's to blame, Martin says she still can't sleep at night.

"I don't know what to do. It's really scary to me," said Martin.

The gardener who examined this yard has recommended replacing the entire lawn. But Martin says it will take more than that to erase the emotional scars the swastikas have left on her family.

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