Wanda Morris said she’s still “in shock” that someone allegedly tried to burn her son’s house down with him inside simply because he is gay.
“We’ve lived here 31 years and never had a cross word with anyone,” she told the GA Voice today.
Christopher Staples, 43, was inside his small home in Carroll County on Sunday when he said a rock with an anti-gay note attached was thrown through his window. Hours later, Staples said he woke up to find his home engulfed in flames. Carroll County is some 50 miles west of Atlanta.
Morris said a Carroll County Sheriff’s officer told her that this crime was being investigated as a hate crime.
“This is 100 percent a hate crime,” she said she was told.
“And I don’t see how it could not be,” she added.
Capt. Shane Taylor of the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department said today the FBI offered assistance in this case and the department readily agreed to have the FBI’s help. However, Carroll County remains in charge of the investigation, he added.
As far as the crime being classified as a hate crime — that is not being ruled out, Taylor said. But the first priority is to arrest the suspect or suspects.
“We’re investigating this as an arson. This is not some random act on a victim. Obviously who he is [Chris Staples] could have been a motive,” Taylor said. “It is [classifying the suspected arson as a hate crime] on the radar.”
‘Most vile, hateful things ever read’
Before the fire was started, someone allegedly threw a rock through Staples window with a note attached that had strong anti-gay language written on it.
According to WSB TV, the note said, “We know you’re gay. And God hates gays. You won’t be raping anybody in the county and God’s going to make sure that you burn in hell.’
Staples told WSB the note also said “something about my daddy… my daddy will make sure you burn in hell.”
“That note was the most vile, hateful, meanest thing I’ve ever read,” Morris told the GA Voice. “It took a coward to do this.”
On his Facebook page on Sunday night, Staples described what happened to him in his own words: “Somebody threw rock n window at 8 with note sayin faggots need 2 all die god wants me to burn in hell — so at 5 this a.m. I stuck my head outta my covers and I was in a inferno my comforter was already meltin to bed when I stood up almost passed out heat and smoke was all th way to fllor God pulled me out b4 roof strted drippin flames.”
Outpouring of support from gay community
Morris described her son as “mentally lost” today when he came back to his parents’ home, after staying with a friend overnight, and saw the damage done to his home. Everything was burned, including the some $70 worth of food he purchased the day before with his food stamps.
“He was doing OK until he had to come back home. He had a panic attack,” she said. “He’s mentally lost. It’s just now sinking into him that someone tried to murder him.”
Morris described her son as a man “who doesn’t have hate in his heart.”
“He’s disabled, quiet, a loner. Everyone who knows him loves him. He’s a hoot,” she said. “Everyone calls him, ‘Brother.’”
Morris and her husband own a motorcycle business, Slammer’z Cycle Haven in Carrollton, which is described on her Facebook page as a Christian company.
Morris said she and her family, although faithful Christians, have never felt anything but love for Staples.
“Chris came out 30 years ago. It wasn’t a problem at all,” she said. “He’s just ‘Brother.’”
Morris said the “straight community” is not stepping forward to help as much as the gay community — gay people from all over the world are offering help and well-wishes, she said.
“People here don’t like gays,” she said. “We’re still very much in the Bible belt.”
Morris said that while she is a devout Christian, she has never believed that being gay meant a person was not a child of God.
“Because I don’t look at that word [gay]. I look at that person’s heart and soul,” she said.
Morris added she appreciated the outpouring of love and support from the gay community from all over the world.
“We’re getting phone calls from people wanting to support him. A couple from Germany offered him a place to stay,” she said.
The outpouring is overwhelming, she acknowledged with gratitude in her voice.
“I never knew you all existed. The love and camaraderie that is so strong — I’d like to have that in the straight community,” she said.
“I see that you all care,” she said as her voice broke with emotion. “When one of you hurt, you all hurt.”
Morris said she believes her son started staying home all the time because there was no place for him to go to be with other gay people.
“I felt he’s been alone for so long. There is nowhere for gay people to go and that is needed so bad. Chris says it’s needed. That’s why he’s almost a hermit. And that makes me so mad,” she said.
Morris added that Staples would likely forgive the people who burned his home down. But she won’t be as forgiving.
“He will forgive them because that’s who he is, where I may hold a grudge for a long time,” she said. “A lot of people think gay people don’t love Jesus. I know that’s not true,” she said. “God didn’t me on earth to judge. That’s too much for me to bear.”