Conflict & Justice

A dogged detective breaks open a case of hateful anti-African immigrant graffiti in New Hampshire

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Credit: The Concord Monitor

House in New Hampshire was graffitied by racists for years in a crime that went unsolved until just recently.

For two years, anonymous hate messages have been scrawled onto the homes of African refugee immigrants in Concord, NH.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the audio to hear it.)

Written in black marker and appearing overnight, the messages' cryptic origins left police struggling to find a lead. But now, Raymond Stevens, a self-described "proud Aryan," has been arrested. Charged with a Class B felony for criminal mischief, Stevens could face up to seven years in jail, if convicted.

On one house, he's accused of writing this: "The subhumans in this house are enjoying a free ride. You are paying in many ways for them to live here. This is a ghetto waiting to happen. They live here free of cost while you work hard to get by. The Church is destroying our towns just to save a few doomed Africans. This is a bad joke on us. Don't stand for this treatment our ancestors expected better for us and for New England. You pay for this injustice."

Concord Police Chief John Duvall credits a dedicated investigator and a distinctive letter "b" with finally leading his team to Stevens.

"We knew that we had unique handwritng [in the graffiti messages and] that if we could find something similar, that would be probably our best lead," Duvall said.

So investigators went through thousands of files, including documents from years before the graffiti incidents occurred, looking for anything that might offer them a connection. They kept "hitting dead ends," until one investigator noticed a document, a gun permit, that was handwritten.

With the idea that he might match the handwriting in the permits to that in the messages, the investigaor went through each file methodically, "just looking at letters."

"He got to [Stevens'] gun permit... and there was that letter 'b' that looked like the number six. It was like a light came on. Just an absolute match," Duvall said.

Cracking the case was especially important in the community of fewer than 50,000 people — home to around 1,500 African refugee immigrants.

"There were children in each of these homes. They were afraid of even playing in their own backyards, even in the day. It created a high level of anxiety and fear for these families. In fact," Duvall explained, "one of the residents communicated with a friend of their family that back in their country, if they found writings on the wall, it was actually a precurser for being killed."

"Their fears were steeped with experiences that many, if not all of us in this country, can only imagine with horror."

Chief Duvall hopes that, with Stevens' arrest, the community can begin to heal. He says he was proud to see residents "come out of the woodwork... and express their resolve to be active in speaking about [the incidents and]... how we need to learn more about each other, instead of acting on ignorance and bringing presumptions to a conversation that aren't true."  

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