House fire is being investigated by Ohio authorities as a hate crime.
An interracial couple’s home in Sterling, Ohio, approximately 25 miles west of Akron, was completely leveled by a sudden explosion, and police are now investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Authorities found a swastika and an anti-Black message spray-painted next to the home, which was unoccupied at the time.
Angela, 55, and Brad Frase, 60, were just one year away from paying off their mortgage. They had lived in their residence for 23 years. Angela is black and her husband is white.
“That makes you even more sick to your stomach,” she said, “I’m just lost. I don’t know what to even think anymore.”
They just happened to be away from their home for the past month after an electrical fire in July. The couple’s insurance company put them up in a nearby hotel while the home underwent repairs. They had reportedly been planning to move back in next month.
Angela believes the explosion was a result of a hate crime, said she is in “total disbelief that there’s still this much hatred in America.” She added, “We decided that whatever happens, we’re not rebuilding here. We’re not coming back. We’re done.”
Just one day prior to the incident, construction workers reported a strong smell of natural gas coming from inside and quickly determined that a stove burner had been left on. The gas company servicing the home cut the supply, but investigators said, “there would have been enough gas left in the house for it to ignite with a simple cigarette spark.” According to a news release from the state fire marshal’s office, “an unknown suspect(s) unsuccessfully attempted to ignite the home by filling it with natural gas and turning the stove burner on.” The incident is being investigated as an arson, and authorities are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible.
Angela said they enjoyed living there for as many years as they did, stating, “You don’t have traffic coming back and forth, except for your neighbors. Nobody comes down here unless, usually, they live here, or they come to visit. Otherwise, it’s just nice, quiet, and peaceful. And I like that country feel. We have the field beside us, the creek. I like the country. And Sterling’s a small town, and everybody knows everybody, so it’s kind of nice.” She added, “I’m just baffled. I have no clue. I don’t know anybody that would want to hurt us.”
Despite the serene surroundings, the couple has experienced hate crimes in their neighborhood in the past. To them, this was the last straw.
Several of the Frases’ neighbors stepped forward to express their condolences.
“Honestly, it’s really scary,” said Crystal Pasterchek, who lives next door. “It does not sit well with me at all. It’s all just so surreal to me, honestly. I’m kind of just shocked.”
“Right now, we’re investigating this as a hate crime,” Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Hunter confirmed.
Sheriff Travis Hutchinson added, “We are not going to tolerate that type of activity and behavior here.”