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Female teens arrested for spray painting slurs
The Screven County Sheriff’s Office arrested three female teenagers in connection with the isolated property damage, arson crimes, and spray-painted racial slurs on residences and vehicles in the Twin Oaks Road area that is predominantly African-American.
The arrests were made on a trio of white female suspects; two juveniles ages 14 and 15 and one 18-year-old adult. The names of the juveniles are not released.
The 18-year-old is Shelby Leann Widener of Sylvania.
The three suspects each face charges of a count of interference with government property; a count terroristic threats and acts; four counts of second-degree criminal damage to property; two counts of arson third-degree felony; and four counts of misdemeanor criminal trespass.
The two juvenile defendants are being held in a juvenile detention facility in Sandersville, and the adult defendant is being held at the Screven County Jail.
All defendants are pending bond hearings and grand jury action. The next grand jury is scheduled for October.
Widener was being held on a $44,000 bond.
Investigators with the sheriff’s office said the suspects said they damaged the property on July 6 because of “boredom.”
Residents of Twin Oaks Road awoke that Tuesday morning to vandalism and racial slurs being scattered along the houses on the road.
The various acts of vandalism included mailboxes and signs being burnt, along with slurs and expletives spray-painted on cars, a shed and the sides of the houses along the road.
Several members of the neighborhood reported that tires on vehicles had been slashed, and at least one house reported that someone had put sugar into the gas tank of his vehicle.
The spray-painting referenced law enforcement, African-Americans, and also had sexual connotations not printed in this publication.
In the neighborhood, the letters “KKK” and “FTP” were painted. However, there also were random painted smiley faces.
The Screven County Sheriff’s Department received assistance from multiple individuals to aid in the investigation and the residents came together for answers and allowed law enforcement to handle the situation.
By the day after the incident a prayer service was held at Kemp Grove Baptist Church on Pine Street in Sylvania for the victims to speak, prayers to be said, and hymns to be sung.
Sheriff Mike Kile attended the July 8 church service and assured the community members that the suspected individuals who committed this crime were not members of the KKK and that arrests would be made concerning the damage within 24 hours. The sheriff was a man of his word as arrests were made the next day.
“We want to thank the people of the community for how they handled this,” Kile said. “There have been no serious repercussions from it.
“Hopefully, justice will be served and the punishments will be what they deserve,” Kile said. “We have good folks in this county and they showed that about how they acted when this happened.”
Sheriff’s office investigator Michael Lacienski said a lot of community support was provided for this investigation. He said firefighters and off-duty Sylvania police officers helped canvass the neighborhood for evidence.
Lacienski said that even checked eggs shells for prints to find the culprits.
He said the damage could have been much worse, noting that the suspects could have burned residences when they set fire to mailboxes and signs.
But people worked together, Lacienski said.
“This shows what quality people we have in this county,” Lacienski said of those who assisted. “It is a testament to the citizens we have in our community and how they responded to the initial scare.”