FBI investigating cross-burning outside suspect's house

Published: Oct. 21, 2011 at 3:32 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2011 at 3:33 PM EDT
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Mitchell's house, where the burning took place
Mitchell's house, where the burning took place
Mitchell Smith
Mitchell Smith

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The FBI is investigating after someone burned a cross outside the house of a man accused of posing as a social worker to take advantage of vulnerable adults.

Columbia police and firefighters responded to Mitchell Smith's house on Gervais Street around 4:20am Friday and found the cross still smoldering in the yard. Smith also told police someone threw a brick through his window.  
"My dad called in a very frantic voice," said Smith's son, Mitchell Smith II. "I couldn't really hear what he was saying. All I could hear was a cross was burning and I didn't know and he said get here quickly and I didn't know if my dad was harmed or anything."
Smith says a note was attached to the brick. The note said, "We don't want ya'll here" and included a number of racial slurs.
"I don't know if I should be scared," said Smith. "Should we move?"

Investigators have handed the case over to the FBI due to the possibility of the incident being considered a hate crime.

Smith, 45, was arrested Sunday for unauthorized practice as a social worker after police said he housed several vulnerable adults without providing adequate care. The Department of Social Services took the adults into emergency protective custody after some were found sick with open sores on their bodies.

Smith's son says his dad did not take advantage of the men. "If you get out and talk with the guys, they would tell you they were never mistreated," said the son. "You know it just got blown out of proportion."

Smith is out of jail on a $100,000 bond.

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