Image from the Facebook page of Michela and Connie Pineda.
A Louisville couple says their family has been receiving “almost daily” death threats—including a swastika painted on their driveway, bullets in their mail, and a note that spelled “n—–s leave”—and live in fear of what’ll happen next.
The mixed-race Pineda family, who has accused a neighbor in their subdivision of targeting them, has been repeatedly harassed over the past several months, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Their neighbor, Suzanne Craft, was charged with three counts of criminal mischief and three counts of harassing communications in July over allegations that she tagged the family’s property with racist graffiti on multiple occasions, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
One month later, Craft was found guilty of being in contempt of court because she violated a no-contact order, allegedly tampering with the Pineda family’s lawn and using chemicals to burn a swastika into their grass, according to WHAS, a local ABC affiliate. Craft was sentenced to seven days in jail and seven days on house arrest, according to the Courier-Journal.
Craft said she was innocent of the lawn-tampering, according to WHAS.
But the harassment continues, according to the Pineda family—and has gone on for more than a year at this point, despite reports to law enforcement, the support of other neighbors horrified with the racist messages, and a lawsuit against Craft and the community’s homeowners association. The association said in a statement on its website that it “stands firmly against racial intolerance, in all of its forms,” but did not respond to a VICE News’ request for comment.
The victims of the attacks, Connie and Michela Pineda, are Latina and Filipina respectively, according to the Washington Post.
The Pinedas have five children, and moved to the Lake Forest neighborhood in April 2019, after Michela retired from the U.S. Navy and ended her deployment in the Philippines, according to the Washington Post. The two oldest Pineda kids are half Black and half Filipino, according to WAVE, an NBC affiliate in Louisville.
In July of 2019, the family noticed odd markings on their lawn that appeared to have been caused by a chemical agent, according to the Post.
Then, their children were allegedly called a racial slur by Craft’s 12-year-old daughter, the family’s attorney told the Post. Craft herself also allegedly threatened to run over one of the Pineda children with her car, according to a lawsuit filed by the family that was viewed by the Post.
In June of this year, the Pineda family posted photos to Facebook of orange graffiti on their driveway, a swastika and a message that read “no n—–s.”. They also posted security-camera footage they allege showed Craft armed with a can of spray paint.
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On Wednesday, Michela and Connie—who appear to share a social media profile—said in another Facebook post that their family was still receiving death threats. The Pinedas shared more security-camera videos from last month that allegedly depict a woman dropping off threatening notes.
“Found 2 in our yard and have 3 separate instances where we found our neighbor violating her no contact order and dropping things off in our yard,” the Pinedas wrote. “We found two bullets in the mail with a threatening note. We contacted the FBI we contacted the prosecutor so at this point we are waiting for someone to contact us to pick up these letters and bullets that keep coming…..”
The Pinedas suspect that “Craft is still targeting them,” the Post reported. The recent threatening letters are anonymous.
The attorney for the Pineda family, Vanessa Cantley, did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment, but told the Post that the family lives in fear. Three of their children are “old enough to know exactly what’s happening,” Cantley said.
“They won’t go out and play in the yard. They won’t go out to walk the neighborhood. “They are basically prisoners in their own home. The whole family sleeps in the living room, where there are no windows, because they just don’t know what this woman is capable of,” Cantley said.
Craft’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment, and a working phone number for Craft couldn’t be located. She didn’t immediately return email requests for comment.
The Pineda family did not return VICE News’ request for comment.
A Black family in Warren, Michigan, was similarly targeted by a neighbor earlier this year. After gunshots were fired at their home, a rock was thrown through their window, and a swastika was scrawled on their truck, police arrested a 24-year-old white man on a litany of charges in September, including “ethnic intimidation.” The man lived around the corner, according to WDIV-TV, a Detroit NBC affiliate, and the family that was harassed had a Black Lives Matter sign in their window.
In Michigan, ethnic intimidation—or an act committed /mileg.aspx?page=GetMCLDocument&objectname=mcl-750-147b)with the “specific intent to intimidate or harass another because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, or national origin”—is a felony.
Back in Kentucky where the Pineda family lives, Jefferson County Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine called the state’s current hate crime statute “well-intentioned” but “totally worthless” in an interview with WAVE last year.
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