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Arson of gay man’s home may not meet hate crime criteria

Chris Staples' home was burned in an apparent arson

The arson of a gay man’s home in Carrollton, Ga., continues to be investigated by local and federal authorities. However, it appears doubtful that it will be classified as a hate crime as defined by federal law.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates told the GA Voice this week through a spokesperson that the matter is still being investigated and the FBI is partnered with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office. No subjects have been identified and it is still undetermined whether there will be federal jurisdiction.

Chris Staples, 43, was inside his small home in Carroll County on Saturday, Jan. 22, when a rock with an anti-gay note attached was thrown through his window. Hours later, Staples woke up to find his home engulfed in flames. Carroll County is some 50 miles west of Atlanta.

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Arson of gay Carrollton man’s home may be hate crime

Carroll County man victim of arson that might be considered a hate crime

Chris Staples says he is still trying to wrap his head around the idea that someone would try to kill him.

The gay Carrollton man had his home vandalized and then burned down; he was asleep at home when the fire began and barely escaped.

“I feel like I’m sort of in a cave, still in shock,” Staples told the GA Voice. “I haven’t shed a tear, haven’t gotten mad.”

Staples, 43, was inside his small home in Carroll County on Sunday, Jan. 23, 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.

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Mother of gay Carrollton man speaks out on suspected arson of his home

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.

The FBI is assisting the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department and there is discussion the alleged crime may be classified as a hate crime.

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FBI aids investigation of arson attack on Carroll County gay man

The FBI is helping to investigate a fire at the home of a gay Carroll County man to determine if the suspected arson is a hate crime.

If federal prosecutors decide the alleged attack on Christopher Staples fits the criteria, it would likely be the first case in Georgia charged under the new Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, according to Atlanta FBI spokesperson Stephen Emmett.

"The FBI is in a supportive role in this investigation, but the investigation itself remains with Carroll County authorities," Emmett told the GA Voice. 

Asked what specifically the FBI is doing in the case, "I won't elaborate other than initial crime scene assessment and any additional lab submittals that Carroll County deems necessary — those types of matters," Emmett said.