A 63-year-old Greentown woman was arrested Thursday after police say she left a racist letter aimed at a black child on the door of her neighbors’ recently-purchased home.
Deborah Cantwell was booked in the Howard County Jail and charged with misdemeanor counts of intimidation and criminal mischief for a crime that’s left the Greentown community rallying around a family left traumatized.
Cantwell, who posted 10 percent of an $8,000 bond upon booking, was also hit Friday with a protection order that states “stalking has occurred” and prohibits her from contacting the family.
The case kicked off at 1:13 a.m. Oct. 13, when the husband and father of the family contacted a Howard County sheriff’s deputy, reporting that his family’s Greentown home had been toilet-papered and a racist letter attached to the door.
The man, whose family had yet to move into the home at the intersection of 600 East and 100 North, told the deputy he stopped at the house around midnight on his way home from work, when he found the toilet paper and letter.
His wife and family had been at the house just five hours earlier.
A probable-cause affidavit refers to the note as “racially offensive and threatening in nature” and explains the family has a black son. It does not provide the age of the son.
Parts of the letter were quoted in the affidavit, which removed the racist vulgarities used by Cantwell.
“No N---- wanted in this neighborhood-THIS IS A WHITE NEIGHBORHOOD-some people find N-----Stressful,” Cantwell wrote, capitalizing the racist insult.
Another paragraph began: “YOUR N---- KID IS NOT WELCOME.”
The final paragraph noted: “YOU CAN SELL YOUR HOUSE AND MAKE MONEY ON IT RIGHT NOW,” and, “BY THE WAY HOPE YOU HAVE DEEP POCKETS.”
The letter, noted the affidavit, contained several racial claims about stress-related health issues and supposed bullying and battering incidents that led to family trauma and even a separate comment about the property having septic issues.
On Oct. 15, the father informed law enforcement that he suspected Cantwell was responsible for the incident. He was previously told by the home’s seller that Cantwell was opposed to the family moving into the neighborhood because of their black son, the man explained.
Investigators, who first believed the letter was written by juveniles, later obtained text messages that had been sent by Cantwell to another person, whose name was retracted from the affidavit.
“I am stressing now that we are going to get black neighbors,” Cantwell texted. “I am hoping that more people look at the house and an all-white family are the ultimate buyers. I am afraid the stress of black neighbors could put me in the hospital.
“My blood pressure is elevated just thinking about the possibility.”
According to police, Cantwell, in an Oct. 18 interview, admitted to writing the letter out of anger and toilet-papering the yard, again justifying her actions by referencing past incidents she said caused her family harm.
“I mean, the blacks get away with it every time,” Cantwell told an investigator, according to the affidavit.
“Just rage, I was trying to vent,” she added about the toilet-papering.
Cantwell later told the investigator: “I was just trying to let them know that they weren’t really … welcome as far as us. … I just needed to let off some steam and it was the – I’m not a violent person so I didn’t think it was any big deal.”
When asked if she was sorry for what she’d done, Cantwell declined to apologize in full but claimed she intends to seek counseling.
“Yes and no,” she said. “I am sorry that it caused so much ruckus, but I feel like I released some anger writing that letter.”
The investigator later asked Cantwell how she would feel if she’d received the letter.
“I’d want to get out of the neighborhood,” she responded.
A GoFundMe page titled “Raising money to fight a hate crime” has been set up by the family and had raised $765 of a $10,000 goal by Friday evening. The money will reportedly be used to pay for legal fees, a fence, a security system and “anything else that we may need.”
The page, which includes a lengthy description of the incident and the family’s response, details the moment the son was told about the incident.
“How do I tell my child that this was done? What words do I say to let him know it is not ok and this doesn’t represent this town, where everyone that meets him likes him?” reads the GoFundMe post, written by the mother.
“That this can’t make him angry and bitter. That he is so much better then what they are portraying him as! His skin color shouldn’t matter. I had to look him in his eyes to talk to him about something I will never understand first, but I saw firsthand the devastation on his face. I watched my child be crushed by someone else hatred and racism.”