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Arson suspected in Silver Creek house fire

The State Fire Marshal’s office suspects a house fire in Lawrence County was set deliberately sometime overnight Thursday, however, it’s not known yet if the racially charged message found on a nearby shed was painted at the same time.

Sheriff Lessie Butler said his office was notified about 9 a.m. Friday that a home in the 400 block of Hooker Road had been completely destroyed by a fire sometime in the night. The brick home in Silver Creek was vacant and the homeowner lives in Louisiana, Butler said.

At the scene of the fire Friday, deputies found a disturbing message spray painted on an aluminum shed still standing on the back of the lot that had not burned.

The message, which contained the N-word, was sprayed across two sides of the shed. The homeowner is black, Butler said.

His office is still investigating the incident as a possible hate crime and he believes it is likely an isolated incident.

“I haven’t got to talk to the homeowner to see if the writing was there prior to that or if it happened during the time of the fire,” he said.

The homeowner met with state fire investigators Monday.

“State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Ricky Davis says that the fire is still under investigation and arson is suspected,” said Beth Reiss, communications director with the Mississippi Insurance Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

She said the State Fire Marshal’s Office is working with the sheriff’s office on this investigation.

The FBI has also been contacted.

“The FBI is aware of the situation in Lawrence County, and we have been in touch with state and local officials,” said Brett Carr, public affairs officer with the FBI’s office in Jackson. “If a federal violation comes to light during the state and local investigation, the FBI is prepared to fully investigate.”

Butler asks that anyone with information about the fire or the racial epithet, call Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 601-587-2961 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 601-582-STOP (7867). Tipsters can also go online at www.p3tips.com and select Monticello as the location.

Tips are confidential and no calls are taped, traced or recorded, Butler said. All callers are given an identification number to claim cash reward money. Reward money amounts are decided upon by and subject to the discretion of the Metro Crime Stoppers board of directors.