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Cross-burning, racial slurs hurled after man not invited to a bonfire

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MORRISTOWN – A Gouverneur man is worried about the safety of his family after he claims he was threatened by a Hammond man who burned a cross and threatened to lynch him.

On April 29 at roughly 10:30 p.m. Ryann A. Wilson burned a cross and threatened to lynch Nigel A. Spahr, a black man and 2007 Morristown Central School graduate, according to court documents. After more than a month of increasing intimidations Mr. Spahr, fearing for the lives of his family and friends, reported Mr. Wilson, 28, of 3 Shady Lawn Drive, Hammond, to the police.

He is currently being held in county jail on $10,000 cash or $20,000 bond.

The night of the cross-burning was also Mr. Spahr’s birthday and he and several friends had gathered for a bonfire at Katelyn Perretta’s apartment at 5 Shady Lawn Drive. Mr. Wilson and Lucas Goldie, another Morristown graduate, were walking past Ms. Perretta’s apartment and Mr. Spahr, a friend of Mr. Goldie, invited him over. But Mr. Wilson, who has had frequent disputes with Ms. Perretta’s landlord, Daniel C. Snyder, was told it would be best if he didn’t join the party.

“I told Ryann not to come over,” Mr. Spahr said, at which point Mr. Wilson, upset at being left out, began driving first his dirt bike and then his tractor up and down his driveway, near where the bonfire was taking place.

“Then [Mr. Wilson] came back and told me he was going to hang me by a noose,” Mr. Spahr said, adding that Mr. Wilson then called him by a racial slur and walked away.

Eventually Mr. Spahr decided to call it a night and went inside to sleep when he was told by a friend to look outside.

“I peek my head out the door and there was a burning cross on [Mr. Wilson’s] property,” Mr. Spahr said.

Initially Mr. Spahr, a resident of Gouverneur where he lives with his one and two-year old children, attempted to ignore the incident.

But as the weeks wore on it became apparent that Mr. Wilson’s threats were not a one-time occurrence, Mr. Spahr said.

“Ever since the night of the cross it’s just been constant,” Ms. Perretta said, who lives next-door to Mr. Wilson and has her five and seven year-olds living with her. “He was yelling... outside of my house. It’s just ongoing nonsense.”

Around May 29 Mr. Spahr was walking through Gouverneur to a store when Mr. Wilson pulled up alongside him and started talking about the incident, claiming that Mr. Spahr had insulted his girlfriend.

Mr. Spahr said he denied ever saying anything like that, but apologized to Mr. Wilson for any confusion. Mr. Wilson invited Mr. Spahr to “take it out back.”

The final straw came on June 7 when Mr. Wilson parked a Casella dumpster directly in front of Ms. Perretta’s apartment door.

“Right after he put the garbage can… I went to the police. I realized it wasn’t going to stop,” Mr. Spahr said.

“It’s saying that they are trash,” Mr. Snyder said of the move, explaining that, in his opinion, the dumpster was put there because Ms. Perretta associates with a black man. “It is a racial thing.”

Ms. Perretta said in an email that Mr. Wilson “kept yelling things about us being trash so it belonged there.”

Mr. Wilson was arrested on Friday and is being charged with setting a cross on fire in public view while hurling racial slurs at Mr. Spahr – a class E felony. “What’s the next thing? Is he going to kill somebody next?” Mr. Snyder said. But the dumpster is still sitting on the lawn next to Ms. Perretta’s door. Because Mr. Wilson’s property extends nearly to Ms. Perretta’s apartment, Casella won’t remove the dumpster.

“That customer is a paying customer; he has been paying his bills,” a Casella customer service representative said of Mr. Wilson on Monday.

Mr. Snyder said it’s outrageous that Casella won’t remove the dumpster given that its location is creating a fire hazard at Ms. Perretta’s apartment.

“The [money] they’re going to make per month [off the dumpster] is worth more than the lives in the house,” Mr. Snyder said.

Sheriff Kevin M. Wells said the cross-burning was an isolated event.

“It’s not something that occurs here.”

Mr. Spahr said he is interested in ensuring Mr. Wilson “doesn’t menace my family.”

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