Authorities investigate possible Dubuque County hate crime, arson, burglary

Graffiti painted on walls of woman's home

Jillian Petrus
Published: September 6 2011 | 6:41 am - Updated: 2 April 2014 | 10:41 pm in

The Dubuque County Sheriff's Office, along with the State Fire Marshall and FBI Hate Crime unit, are investigating an arson and burglary case that may also involve a hate crime.

Around 6 a.m. Saturday, the sheriff's office responded to 17475 Alan Jackson Dr. on the outskirts of Dubuque, near Centralia.

Upon arrival, authorities learned someone had broken into the residence, set a fire in the kitchen and painted racial slurs on the outside of the home.

There were three people at home during the time of the fire -- a mother, her teenage daughter and another teenager. All made it out of the home safely. But the aftermath has the family and neighborhood on alert.

"To know someone has the capability to do that anywhere, let alone in our neighborhood right next to us, it's very scary," said Matthew Warthan. Warthan has lived next door to the African-American woman and her daughter for the past five years.

"Understandably she's shaken up, but she's a strong woman and it won't set her back," said Warthan.

For now, they're releasing few details, but a $1,000 cash reward is being offered to anyone with information that leads to an arrest. While neighbors wait for more information, they say they're taking extra precautions and looking out for anything suspicious.

"It's sickening, sad and pitiful that someone would feel that way toward another person simply for the color of their skin," said neighbor Kari Fix.

"Dubuque is a great town," added Warthan. "We need the community to come together and find out who these people are that did this."

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