MARTINSBURG – Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office has filed a state Fair Housing Act suit on behalf of a black and a white Falling Waters family against another Falling Waters family, alleging the black family members were receiving violent threats, including cars being driven quickly toward their 6-year-old son, because of their race.
The other plaintiffs in the suit, the white family, were also being called names and being threatened because they were sticking up for the black family, according to the suit filed Nov. 25 in Berkeley Circuit Court.
Brian Smith and Bettyanne Obiri moved into their home at 23 Wisconsin Lane in Falling Waters with their six-year-old son and their 15-month-old daughter in July 2005, the suit states.
The Smith and Obiri family live next door to Bruce Poole, Kendra Sulick and Sulick's 17-year-old and 13-year-old sons, who are referred to as J.S. and B.S. in the complaint.
The violence toward the Smith and Obiri family began on Dec. 8, 2007, when Poole attacked the family's two black dogs, killing one and severely wounding another, the family claims.
After the attack, Poole told Smith, "I killed your nigger dog and I'll kill you, too!" the suit states.
Another problem arose on June 17 when Poole blocked a gravel road behind the Smith and Obiri house where their six-year-old son would ride his bike, according to the complaint.
When the six-year-old attempted to ride on the path, Poole yelled, "Go back home, nigger," the suit states.
After discovering the log blocking the gravel road, Smith asked Poole to remove it, the Smith and Obiri family claim.
However, Poole refused, saying, "The road is closed to nigger kids! Let me go get my gun and blow your fucking brains out!" the suit states.
On the same day, Poole brandished a shotgun while yelling racial slurs and threatening to kill Smith. He also brandished a shovel and threatened Smith with it while screaming racial slurs and profanities, according to the complaint.
While Obiri would wait with her six-year-old son at a bus stop between December 2007 and June, Sulick and her sons would shout racial slurs and profanities and make obscene gestures at them, the Obiri and Smith family claims.
During his school bus ride to and from school, Sulick's 13-year-old son would call Obiri's and Smith's six-year-old child names such as nigger, according to the complaint.
When Obiri asked Sulick to tell her son to stop the name-calling, Sulick replied, "Go back to your fucking house, nigger!" the suit states.
Between December 2007 and June, Sulick repeatedly drove her car quickly past the Smith and Obiri family's house while yelling "fucking nigger," according to the complaint.
In June, Sulick picked her son up at the bus stop and, when seeing the six-year-old boy walking toward his father's vehicle, Sulick gunned her vehicle toward the boy, the Smith and Obiri family alleges.
The same thing happened in September, with Sulick coming within approximately five feet of Obiri, who had both of her children with her.
In July, Sulick's 13-year-old son approached Smith and Obiri's six-year-old who was playing in the neighbor's yard with the neighbor's niece and nephew.
The 13-year-old rubbed poison ivy on the six-year-old's face, arms and legs while saying, "This is what we do to niggers," the suit states.
That same month, the 13-year-old boy saw the six-year-old swinging on a vine in his family's yard with the neighbor's niece, came over and knocked the boy off the swing using a stick, according to the complaint.
The following month, in August, Poole, Sulick and several of their friends were riding ATVs in circles on the gravel road behind the Smith and Obiri family's house at about midnight, the family claims.
However, when Smith asked them to stop, they began screaming threats including, "Don't come out on this road, you niggers!" the suit states.
One August night, Poole and Sulick started up chain saws in their yard and "in a disruptive and threatening manner revved them while yelling racial epithets directed at Brian Smith and Bettyanne Obiri," the suit states.
In September, Sulick's 13-year-old came onto the Smith and Obiri family property and tied a zip tie on their six-year-old son's leg, pulling it so tight the child's foot turned blue and the tie left a deep mark, according to the complaint.
Others have heard of Poole's and Sulick's threats of violence toward the Smith and Obiri family.
Poole and Sulick made threats and used racial slurs against the family to Berkeley County Health Inspector Donna Sieler on Oct. 3.
The same day, Sulick, her son and their two visitors yelled "fucking nigger" and "if you don't like it, get the fuck out of here" from their front porch to Bettyanne Obiri, the complaint states.
Following that, Sulick drove her vehicle back and forth in front of the family's property, revving the engine as she repeatedly drove past, the suit states.
The threats, intimidation and harassment don't end with the Smith and Obiri family.
Another family, Donev and William Hatcher, who are white, are also recipients, according to the complaint.
The Hatchers moved into their home, which sits diagonally across the street from the Smith and Obiri family's house, in May.
When Poole, Sulick and Sulick's sons saw the Hatchers' eight-year-old niece riding her bike with Smith and Obiri's six-year-old, they threatened the child, saying, "Niggers and nigger lovers aren't allowed to ride their bikes here," the suit states.
Because the Hatchers have opposed Sulicks' and Poole's racially motivated threats and abuse, the Sulicks and Poole have begun to threaten and intimidate the Hatcher family by stopping by their property and repeatedly revving the engine of her truck, according to the complaint.
In September, Sulick and her two sons called Donev a "nigger lover" and said, "If you don't move, we'll kick your ass, you fucking nigger lover," the suit states.
Sulick and her two live-in friends have repeatedly called the Hatchers' niece and nephew "nigger lovers," according to the complaint.
On Sept. 30, Poole, Sulick and Sulick's two sons threatened William and Donev's brother, Peter Gedon, and called them "nigger lovers" because they had called the police to report Poole's and the Sulick's racially motivated threatening and intimidating behavior toward the Smith and Obiri family, they claim.
In October, Poole trespassed on the Hatchers' property late at night, according to the complaint.
He took a gasoline canister from their shed and set it on the walkway next to their house as a threat to burn the house down, the suit states.
Smith, Obiri and the Hatchers are seeking an order declaring that the Sulicks and Poole have violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and declaring that prompt judicial action is necessary to carry out the purposes of the West Virginia Fair Housing Act.
They are also seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Sulicks and Poole from assaulting, intimidating, coercing or harassing Smith, Obiri, the Hatchers, their children and their family members because of race and from attempting to assault, intimidate, coerce or harass them because of their race.
Smith, Obiri and the Hatchers are seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Sulicks and Poole from trespassing or causing property damage to their property because of race, from assaulting, intimidating, coercing or harassing any person because that person testified about acts alleged in the complaint and from attempting to assault, intimidate, coerce or harass any person because that person testified about acts alleges in the complaint.
They are also seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Sulicks and Poole from trespassing on or damaging property because a person testified or complained about acts in the complaint, from engaging in any conduct that violates the West Virginia Fair Housing Act, from speaking to, telephoning, writing or otherwise communicating with Smith, Obiri, the Hatchers, their children or their family members and from using racial slurs in their presence.
In addition, Smith, Obiri and the Hatchers are seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Sulicks and Poole from using obscene gestures toward them or in their presence, from coming within 100 feet of them or their property and from encouraging or causing any other person to engage in their prohibited conduct.
Smith, Obiri and the Hatchers are also asking the court to authorize local law enforcement to arrest Poole and the Sulicks if they violate the order and order Poole and the Sulicks to pay a civil penalty, to be established by the court, for each violation of West Virginia code, plus other relief that is just and proper.
They are represented by Paul R. Sheridan, deputy attorney general, in Charleston and Heather L. Laick, assistant attorney general in Charleston.
Berkeley Circuit Court case number: 08-C-1365