June 20, 2005 Someone climbed over the tall white fence at Jerry and Esther Frett's house on St. John's East End to scrawl words like "nigger" and "talk and you're dead," along with several drawings left on their car of a hangman's noose and stick figures of a woman. Both Fretts are black.
Esther Frett said the drawings were made late Sunday or early Monday.
"I'm angry," Frett said.
Police Department spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said Monday that this was "serious business." He said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in to investigate.
"This fits the parameter of a hate crime," Hannah said.
He said there are no suspects.
In response to a question about whether the Police Department thought it might be a black person trying to start trouble, Hannah said that the agency didn't know who it was.
"We're not trying to put the blame on anyone," he said.
Frett said that she and her husband heard something and saw a shadow near their fence at about 3:30 a.m. Monday. When they got up, they found the racial epithets and drawings on their car and fence.
The white fence near their car had the words "49 black 51 white" written on it. Presumably, this incorrectly indicates the percentage of black and white residents on St. John.
In fact, the 2000 census puts the St. John figures at 57.6 percent black, 37.8 percent white, 2.6 percent other, and 2.6 percent two or more races. On the breakdown for the 59 residents in the Frett's East End area, the figures were 37.3 percent black, 52.5 percent white, 5.1 percent other, and 5.1 percent two or more races.
Frett said this was the latest in an escalating series of incidents that began at her House of Dolls in Cruz Bay.
She said that starting around April 2003 she began having altercations with a person who rents two other stores at Meada's Plaza.
The other store owner could not be reached for comment.
Esther Frett said that over time, the owner instructed people to park so no one could access her stairs. She said that in the same time frame, people put garbage near her stairs so flies took up residence in her stairway.
"Then he started turning off my water because it was in his storeroom," Esther Frett said, referring to the on- and off-valves for the entire building.
She said he told her "your kind doesn't stay in business for long" and called her "black bitch," among other things. She said at one point, he mooned her and said "kiss my white ass."
House of Dolls is one of only a few black-owned retail businesses in Cruz Bay. The vast majority of store owners are white.
Frett said that things seemed to come to a head on June 5, when the other store owner shoved her as he came through a sales tent she had set up at the bottom of her stairs. Hannah confirmed that a man was arrested in connection with the incident but declined to give his name.
Frett said he was charged with aggravated assault and battery. She said the police told her not to show the police report to anyone.
She said that after a court hearing on June 13, her store landing at the top of the stairs was littered with bottles and garbage as well as a note that said "move nigger black witch."
She said that House of Dolls has received an eviction notice. She said the building owner pinned the blame on her for failure to renew. She said she has to be out of the store by the end of June and is looking for new space.
Both Fretts said they are not afraid.
"I'd like to see the person who shuts me up," Jerry Frett said.
As news of the incident circulated, one St. John resident expressed her outrage.
"We don't need this kind of crappola," Mary Blazine said, adding that "it's not who we are."
Hannah said he found it "pretty shocking for the territory as a whole."
Hannah, 55, said that he grew up in Alabama during the strife of the Civil Rights Movement. He said he was outraged to find situations like the one at the Frett's still occurring.
"America has to be better than this," he said.
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