A couple in Ripley, Tennessee is looking for answers after their home was burned to the ground earlier this month in what they suspect was a racially-motivated incident that took place on Nov. 1.
"It was 12:33 a.m., and ADT called and said, 'you have a smoke detector going off. What do you want us to do?' I said I'm in Missouri. Please call the fire department," homeowner Alan Mays told local news outlet Action 5 News. Mays was vacationing in Branson, Missouri, with his wife Kirsten and their three foster kids at the time. He is an army veteran who is in an interracial marriage.
About an hour and a half after the first call, at around 2 a.m., Ripley Fire Chief Tracey Worlds informed Mays that his house was a "total loss" and they were unable to save anything. The home was reduced to rubble and the only thing that stands is the chimney. The Mays family is now living in a rental as they search for a new home.
Ripley Fire Department Report Says the House May Have Exploded
The Ripley Fire Department investigated the scene once the fire was knocked down. According to the report, "The house looked to have exploded, leaving glass and the door frame approximately 30ft from the house, glass 50ft."
Mays said Worlds also told him about the racial slur spray-painted on his pool wall.
"[Worlds] said 'I've got one more question to ask you,'" Mays recalled. "Did you write anything on your back pool wall? Was anything written on there when you left?' I said the only thing on my back pool wall was my sundial that I have back there that's been there for five years. He said, 'Well I've got to tell you. There's n*gger lover written on your pool wall."
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Says Fire is 'Suspicious'
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is now investigating what happened on the night of Nov. 1. The agency states it believes the house fire is suspicious and is leading an investigation at the request of District Attorney General Mark Davidson.
"At the request of 25th District Attorney General Mark Davidson, TBI special agent fire investigators are leading an investigation into a suspicious residential fire in the 200 block of Hunters Trace Drive in Ripley, which occurred on November 1st. No injuries were reported. As this remains an active and ongoing investigation, we are limited in the information we are able to release." Keli McAlister, TBI Public Information Officer.
It is not yet known whether the fire is being investigated as a possible arson and/or hate crime.