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Neighbor, visitor accuse Morristown man of burning cross, using racial slur

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MORRISTOWN — A Gouverneur man expressed worry about his family’s safety after his claim he was threatened by a Morristown man who burned a cross and threatened to lynch him.

Ryann A. Wilson burned a cross and threatened to hang Nigel A. Spahr, a black man and 2007 Morristown Central School graduate, at about 10:30 p.m. April 29, according to court documents.

After more than a month of alleged increasing intimidation, Mr. Spahr, fearing for the lives of his family and friends, reported Mr. Wilson, 28, of 3 Shady Lawn Drive, to the police.

He is being held in St. Lawrence County jail, Canton, on $10,000 bail or $20,000 bond.

The night of the cross-burning was also Mr. Spahr’s birthday, he said, 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, said he invited Mr. Goldie 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, allegedly began driving first his dirt bike and then his tractor up and down his driveway, near the bonfire.

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

Eventually Mr. Spahr decided to call it a night and went inside to sleep when a friend told him 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, who lives with his 1- and 2-year-old children in Gouverneur, attempted to ignore the incident.

But as the weeks wore on, it became apparent 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.

She lives next door to Mr. Wilson with her 5- and 7-year-olds.

“He was yelling ... outside of my house. It’s just ongoing nonsense,” she said.

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

Mr. Spahr said he denied ever saying anything like that, but he apologized to Mr. Wilson for any confusion.

Mr. Wilson invited Mr. Spahr to “take it out back,” Mr. Spahr recounted.

The final straw came Friday, when Mr. Wilson allegedly placed a Casella Waste Systems trash receptacle in front of Ms. Perretta’s apartment door, Mr. Spahr said.

“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 garbage bin was placed there because Ms. Perretta associates with a black man. “It is a racial thing,” he said.

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

Mr. Wilson was arrested Friday and has been 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 asked.

The trash bin still sat on the lawn next to Ms. Perretta’s door as of Tuesday. Because Mr. Wilson’s property extends nearly to Ms. Perretta’s apartment, Casella won’t remove the receptacle.

“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 Casella won’t remove the Dumpster given its location is creating a fire hazard at Ms. Perretta’s apartment.

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

“It’s not something that occurs here,” he said.

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

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