Woman who claimed girlfirend set her on fire is arrested for lighting it herself

Ronna Faris

Olufunke Whitehead, who was arrested in 2010 on suspicion of dousing another women with gasoline and setting her on fire, has been cleared of all charges by Bedford police.

Whitehead was arrested a week after the fire and posted $25,000 bail, but was never charged with the crime. She said the ordeal has cost her more than $6,000 over the past two years in addition to personal distress.

Now, police have arrested Ronna Faris and charged her with arson and attempted capital murder. Police believe Faris doused herself with gasoline and started the fire. Her parents, who were in the house, escaped using walkers.

Faris was burned over 63 percent of her body.

According to a report in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Faris was taken into custody Monday on $500,000 bail. She is charged with arson and attempted murder.

Whitehead met Faris online in April 2010. Faris told police that Whitehead was her girlfriend and broke into her house, doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. Using information from Bedford police, Dallas Voice incorrectly identified Whitehead at the time as an “estranged girlfriend.”

Police at the time said, “I don’t know the extent of their relationship, but I do believe they have referred to each other as girlfriends, but I don’t think they ever lived together.”

—  David Taffet

Homeless man arrested for allegedly fire-bombing Fort Worth office of LGBT ally Wendy Davis

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis

Fort Worth police arrested a homeless man Tuesday night who they believe is responsible for setting off makeshift bombs at the office of state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

A bag of six bottles filled with lighter fluid were ignited outside Davis’ office around 4 p.m. Tuesday, starting a small fire. No one was injured, and Davis, a strong supporter of the LGBT community, was not in her office at the time.

Cedric Steele, 40, was arrested in a convenience store parking lot Tuesday night. He allegedly visited Davis’ office on West Seventh Street near downtown Fort Worth on Friday and again on Monday to speak to her about a tazing incident in Michigan.

During the arrest, he spoke of aliens, Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said at a press conference outside the office Tuesday night. Police found igniter fluid and bottles in the abandoned house where police believe Steele was staying.

Steele has was convicted three times for criminal trespassing and once for assault family violence between 2006 ad 2010, according to Dallas County records. He was convicted of the misdemeanor of failure to identify in 2007 in Tarrant County.

Steel is being held on a $50,000 bond. He faces the second-degree felony charge of arson, punishable by up to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Last year, Davis authored a fully LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying bill. Before running for Senate, she served on the Fort Worth City Council and appointed the openly gay Joel Burns to the Plan Commission. When Davis stepped down to run for Senate, Burns was elected to her old seat.

Calls made to Davis’ office were not immediately returned.

—  Dallasvoice

Arlington man sentenced to 14 months for hate crime arson at mosque

Henry Clay Glaspell

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.

Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.

Texas legislators passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which allows enhanced penalties to be assessed to those convicted of hate crimes. But while hate crimes are frequently reported and labeled as such by law enforcement, prosecutors rarely take hate crimes charges to court for fear that it would be too hard to prove a perpetrator’s bias-based intent to a jury.

—  admin

WATCH: Arsonist strikes the gayborhood

This Jeep was destroyed in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 3901 N. Hall St. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Authorities are looking for a suspect who they believe intentionally set two fires — and attempted to set a third — near the Cedar Springs strip early Wednesday.

The fires broke out around 2 a.m. at 3901 N. Hall St. and 3829 N. Hall St., on either side of Reagan Street less than a block from Cedar Springs. The first fire destroyed a Jeep that was parked in the lot of the apartment complex at 3901 N. Hall St. The suspect also tried to set fire to the apartment complex itself – by sticking a burning item through the front door — but someone extinguished it, according to reports.

Across Reagan Street, a blaze that broke out moments later destroyed the contents of a detached garage and apartment behind a residence at 3829 N. Hall St. No one was living in the second-floor apartment.

A second fire destroyed the contents of a detached garage across Reagan Street at 3829 N. Hall St. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

“They [investigators] do believe that the same person caused all three of these fires,” Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans told Instant Tea today. “They interviewed several witnesses including the owner of the Jeep and his girlfriend and several other witnesses. They have a [suspect] description from credible witnesses that they’re going off of now.”

Evans said investigators aren’t releasing the suspect description or additional information about the blazes. However, he said they don’t believe the fires were set by the driver of a yellow Volkswagen Bug, as suggested earlier by one witness.

Shane Brown, who lives in the apartment complex at 3901 Hall and was awakened by the blazes, said he thinks the incidents may have been a hate crime.

“Most people, even if they’re from out of town, know what area this is,” Brown said. “Something in my gut tells me it was definitely hate-crime orientated, so hopefully they catch them.”

Omar Semper said he owns the house at 3829 N. Hall St. and has lived there with his partner for the last 13 years. He said they used the garage — as well as the upstairs apartment — for storage.

“Everything’s destroyed,” Semper said. “Everything.”

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 877-373-8477. For more photos from the fires, see our previous post.

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Car arsons in Oak Lawn this morning

 

Reader Shane Brown, who lives near Reagan and Hall streets in Oak Lawn, sent over these photos of what he says were multiple vehicle fires in the neighborhood early this morning. We’ve got messages in to both Dallas Fire-Rescue and the Dallas Police Department seeking more info, but for now, Brown’s full report is below. Let’s hope we’re not in for a repeat of the Oak Cliff vehicle arson spree of 2008.

Last night at about 2 am I woke up to the sound of a horn going off. At first I thought it was just some person who had fallen asleep drunk on their steering wheel (it happens a lot living off the strip). Eventually though I decided I should investigate. When I peeked outside my window I discovered a blazing fireball about 50 ft away. Someone had set my straight neighbors jeep on fire! The fire department arrived and quickly doused the flames. Everything calmed down and we all went back into our separate apartments and I tried to calm down and fall back to sleep. Within about an hour, fire trucks had pulled up outside of my window again. This time they were across the street. I looked out just as they were bashing in a garage door and flames lashed out at them. This was starting to get strange. After they put the fire out and we all decided we were ok I went to get something from Walgreen to drink. Talking to the person at the counter he explained that there was another vehicle that had been set fire. I can honestly say, I’ve seen and heard some things happening in this neighborhood. But this was the first time I did not feel safe. I hope they catch the person. It’s said a Yellow VW Bug with NM license plates was seen each time one of these fires happened. So keep your eyes out everyone.


—  John Wright

Atlanta-Area Man Says He’s Target of Anti-Gay Arson Attack

Staples

An Atlanta-area man says he was targeted in an arson attack after he received a rock thrown through his window with a note containing anti-gay threats.

WSBTV reports: Chris_staples

"Chris Staples said someone threw a rock through his window with a piece of paper attached that was covered in anti-gay slurs. "I was watching TV and just finished smoking a cigarette and I heard this big thud. Boom!" Staples told Channel 2’s George Howell.  

The rock had a threatening note attached. "It said, ‘we know you're gay. And God hates gays. You won't be raping anybody in the county and God's going to make sure that you burn in hell.’ And something about my daddy… my daddy will make sure you burn in hell,"

Then hours later, he woke up to flames filling his bedroom. Channel 2 Action News reporter Amanda Cook spoke with Staples mother about the Sunday fire.

“We are just lost,” said Staples' mother, who did not want to be identified. His mother said she heard a commotion and saw fire coming from her son’s house next door. She said she ran out to find Staples lying in the yard. She said she thought he was dead. “The house was black. And all I could see was an orange glow behind my head," Staples said.

Here's a slideshow of the damage.

Here's a video news interview of Staples.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Donations needed for Tenn. lesbian couple who lost their home in possible anti-gay arson

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” — it is one of the most well-known verses in the Christian Bible. Now you have a chance to put that Scripture into action and help a lesbian couple in Vonore, Tenn.

The evening of Sept. 4, Carol Ann and Laura Stutte had gone into Nashville for dinner to celebrate the fifth anniversary of leaving Oklahoma to move into what they called their “dream home” just outside Vonore. But then they got the call from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office telling them their dream was going up in smoke: Their house was on fire.

As they drove up to the smoldering remains of their home, they saw the insult that had been heaped on top of injury: Someone had painted the word “Queers” in big, black letters across the white wall of their detached garage, which had not been destroyed by the fire.

The two women believe that the fire was the latest — and worst — in a string of anti-gay incidents that have plagued them since shortly after they moved into the house, things like having nails strewn across their driveway and the lug nuts on their boat trailer loosened. Plus, Carol Ann told KnoxNews.com, there were the threats and insults from a neighbor who once told them this “joke”: What’s better than a dead queer? Two dead queers.

The neighbor, Carol Ann said, had also told them she would burn their house down.

For five years, Carol Ann said she and Laura chose to just “turn the other cheek” and try to “keep the peace.” But in August, they reached a breaking point and reported the ongoing harassment and vandalism to the sheriff’s department. (Go to KnoxNews.com to see video of the two women talking about the fire.)

Sheriff Bill Bivens said his department has not determined whether the fire was a hate crime, but is definitely investigating the possibility. The Tennessee Bomb and Arson Investigative is also looking into the fire.

Carol Ann, a 47-year-old landscaper, and Laura, a 48-year-old nurse, have said they will never rebuild on that same site, and are too afraid to return to Vonore. For now, they are staying in a safe house at an undisclosed location. Carol Ann’s 26-year-old daughter, Kimberly Holloway, had been living with them at the home in Vonore. She is now staying at a separate safe house location.

For several days after the fire, the Stuttes didn’t talk to anyone about what had happened. When they finally did go public, the community responded. A special fund has been set up for them at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville (yes, that is the same church where a man opened fire during a children’s production of “Annie” back in 2008 because he was angry over the church’s liberal bent). Ben Byers with Tennessee Equality Project’s Knoxville committee said a benefit concert is planned, and the Maryville chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is accepting contributions of clothing and toiletries for the women and dog food for their three dogs who survived the fire.

If you want to help, you can contact either the church or the PFLAG chapter. If you want to send a message of support, you can do that at the “We Support The Stutte Family” Facebook page.

—  admin

Lesbian Couple Recovers After Arson

CRIME SCENE POLICE TAPE X390 (PHOTOS.COM) | ADVOCATE.COMA lesbian couple who was out celebrating five years of living in their
Vonore, Tenn. home returned to find their home vandalized and set
ablaze. 
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright