CONNERSVILLE, Ind. — A Connersville family is temporarily homeless after a fire early Friday morning at their home. The family told WRTV a racial slur was spray-painted on their back porch during the incident.
Firefighters with the Connersville Fire Department responded to the fire around 3:30 a.m. Friday at the home in the 2300 block of North Grand Avenue, according to the department. Officials said the fire was contained to one room, which Emma Williams said was the master bedroom.
“Our bedroom is torched. It looks like an ashtray. It’s destroyed,” Williams said.
Emma Williams, who owns the home with her husband, Connersville City Council member Tommy Williams, said the family was out of town. The family’s dog, Roxy, and cat, Millie, died in the fire.
“I would be shocked if I knew who did this, because we don’t really have enemies. In fact, I just have no idea,” Emma Williams said.
Neighbor Karen Kalkhoff called 911 and the family.
“It just breaks my heart. I just, I’m heartbroken that somebody would think that they needed to do something like that to them," Kalkhoff said. "Not Tommy, not me, not Angie, not Gary, not Paul — nobody in this world deserves what happened to them.”
On Sunday, the 2300 block of North Grand Avenue was quiet. The community was still processing what happened early Friday morning — not only processing the fire, but also the racial slur that was left on the home.
“For one person, there are thousands of good people, and we have to focus on the good and not the evil can’t win,” Emma Williams said.
Her 16-year-old son, Josh, added: “I dealt with stuff my whole life, but this is kind of overboard.”
Instead of anger, the Williams family is choosing forgiveness.
“I have a reaction that may not be what people expect. I have one of forgiveness, for whoever has chosen this," Williams said. She continued, “I can’t choose anger because it’s not productive and doesn’t help anything. The main thing is this behavior is not indicative of our community at all. It doesn’t represent who Connersville is to me.”
“I don’t know why somebody would think to do something like that. It just blows my mind,” Kalkhoff said.
She continued speaking about the community in its entirety. “We just all watch out for each other, whether it’s our kids, it’s our pets — we’re a family. We just love each other.”
Around Connersville, the Williams family is known as a family that lives to help others. The support of the community, Emma Williams said, is breathtaking.
“Really, it’s a family, and I’m not going to get that if I move, so not moving,” Williams said.
A GoFundme started by Williams’ sister raised nearly $30,000 as of Sunday evening.
“Pray for us and pray for the people that did this, because they need more help than us,” Josh Williams said.
A spokesperson with the FBI told WRTV Sunday night “the FBI is aware of the incident in Connersville and will be tracking along with any developments.”
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security told WRTV, “State Fire Marshal investigators are investigating this fire as suspicious in nature, but a definitive cause of the fire has not been determined.”
A spokesperson pointed WRTV to the FBI for further comment, sharing that they are leading the investigation.
Fayette County Sheriff Joey Laughlin posted the following statement to Facebook over the weekend: