Arson victims say fire was a hate crime

  • 0

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - A Nokomis couple wakes up to find their mobile home on fire after their water line was cut, and the tires on their vehicle were slashed. Investigators say it was the work of an arsonist, and those inside the home believe one of the reasons they were targeted is because they're gay.

The fire happened Saturday morning along the 100 block of Jessica Street South in Nokomis.

"I just can't believe it." On Friday night, Allie Langley says somebody broke the water pipes to her home. About 5:30am Saturday morning she says someone slashed all four tires to the car and lit her home on fire while she was sleeping inside. "It scares me. It scares the hell out of me. We came outside and within four minutes the whole room where we were sleeping was engulfed in flames. It's attempted murder because it was right by our front door."

They lost everything, including six of their numerous cats. It’s their most serious run-in in the neighborhood, but not the first. "It's just gotten worse in the last month; people throwing things, throwing rocks."

She believes the main reason is because she and her girlfriend Carolyn Wojtczak, who also narrowly escaped the fire, are a couple. "I really believe it's a hate crime. In the past when my girlfriend first moved in, she was threatened by a neighbor who said they were going to burn your house down."

She says they've also been targeted for giving food or a warm shower to people known in the area as being homeless and/or addicted to drugs. "We help people maybe they feel we shouldn't help."

It's believed an accelerant was found. The state fire marshal's office is investigating it as arson.

Neighbors say it could have been worse if not for firefighters. A family with three children live to one side on the home. Jimmy Leighton lives on the other side, and so does his propane tank. He says he's mad that someone out there could have killed a lot of people Saturday morning. "That is a horrible thing. These girls could have been killed. They lost their animals. They could have perished in the flames, along with my home and the other neighbors home."

While the investigation continues, Allie says they're just trying to pick up the pieces. “Just trying to get through, try to rebuild, try to find someplace to live. We don't have anything."

ABC 7 contacted the state fire marshal's office Monday to ask if people around there should be concerned for their own safety. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office says the case has not been handed over to them.

The Red Cross gave the victims three nights at a local hotel, but that's set to run out. You can help by contacting the Red Cross.