A black foster mother saw her dream go up in flames when a cross was burned in her front yard and fire later gutted her house in an all-white neighborhood.
Mae Lester, 27, said it's difficult for her to trust any whites after the fires earlier this month."You cut my heart out and burn it up, knowing you can't live where you want to live," she said.
But Crisp County Sheriff Donnie Haralson said the burning of Lester's house isn't indicative of the community's racial climate.
"The majority of Crisp County residents don't condone" what happened to Lester, the sheriff said.
Lester had moved into the house in a subdivision just north of Cordele Feb. 12, having signed a $315-a-month lease with an option to buy at $28,000. She receives about $1,100 a month in state assistance for caring for five foster children. She has one child of her own.
But before she could spend a night in her dream house, someone burned an 8-foot-high cross on the lawn.
"The cross meant they were going to burn me down," Lester said. So, she repacked and moved in with her sister.
Two days later, authorities said, fire gutted the house.
No arrests have been made.
Jack White, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's regional office in Perry, said Friday that authorities did not believe the Ku Klux Klan was involved.
"We're looking at some individuals," White said, declining to comment on whether any were residents of the subdivision.