CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A New Hampshire man who said he was "angry at an imperfect world" admitted Wednesday he scrawled racist graffiti on the homes of four African refugee families; he was sentenced to a year in jail.
Raymond Stevens, 44, of Concord pleaded guilty to criminal mischief — a special felony because his conduct is considered a hate crime. He also was sentenced to five years' probation upon release from jail, and any future violation can trigger a resentencing hearing where he would face 10 to 30 years in prison.
Police say Stevens wrote hateful messages in black permanent marker on the homes of refugee families in a Concord neighborhood in 2011 and 2012. On one home was scrawled: "The sub humans in this house are enjoying a free ride"; on another, it said: "Go back to your hell and leave us alone."
Victim statements read in court told of the effect the graffiti had on the refugees.
"My heart was distressed. I was violated as a human being," wrote Manasse Ngendahayo.
Others said it thrust them back into the daily terror they had lived with in the Congo and Rwanda. They stopped venturing into the community they had come to call home; some moved to other states.
Stevens told the judge he was "deeply remorseful for the pain I have caused those good families."
"Please know I was never a violent man — just mentally ill and in need of help," Stevens said. His lawyer said it was after his arrest and an attempt to kill himself that he was diagnosed with mental health issues that had gone untreated.
"I was angry at an imperfect world and allowed it to fester," Stevens said.
The case went unsolved for nearly two years after the graffiti first appeared. Concord Det. Wade Brown is credited with sifting through thousands of incident reports and gun permit applications to find a handwriting match to the graffiti.
Stevens was arrested in October 2013. He shot himself in the head a month afterward. He was diagnosed with mental health issues that had previously gone undiagnosed and untreated, Public Defender Melinda Siranian said at the time, and the shooting left him with a bullet lodged in his head. She said that because of the injury, he suffers from nervous ticks and seizures.
Superior Court Senior Judge Philip Mangones rejected Stevens' request Wednesday for probation or to serve the sentence at home, saying what the defendant did was "quite egregious."
Prosecutor David Rotman said that while Stevens has no prior criminal record, searches of his home, car and Facebook account turned up writings on white supremacist ideology.
Ann Renner told the judge she owned two of the houses where the graffiti was written and had bought several others to help refugees who had lived in fear in their native lands.
"These houses suddenly went from places of refuge to places of fear," Renner said. "For them, angry, hateful words aren't just angry hateful words. They are likely to lead to violence."
Concord detectives who attended the plea and sentencing hearing declined to comment.
"Today is for the victims," Brown said.