Editor’s note: This story and related photo contain racial slurs and profanity.
A day after graduating with honors from Cuba High School, Sharquelle “Sharky” Smith found a shockingly sad surprise outside her residence.
Smith, an 18-year-old African-American, discovered her truck had been spray-painted with a racist epithet, with a similar slur spray-painted on the road leading to the rural Smithfield home. The truck was also spray-painted with a swastika, an apparent reference to the Jewish family with whom Smith has been living.
“I’ve been called a nigger all my life,” says Smith, a member of the National Honor Society. “But this takes it to a whole new level.”
Smith, raised in East Peoria, moved with her adoptive family six years ago to Cuba, which is 10 miles southwest of Canton. In January, she moved into the home of Jodi Marlow, who lives outside Smithfield with her husband and son. The son is a platonic friend and fellow graduate of Smith’s. The family is Jewish.
Recently, Smith used all of her savings to buy a $1,000 used truck, which she planned to use in the fall at Bradley University. Monday, Smith went to her truck and found the racist and anti-Semitic vandalism. Further, the vehicle had been smeared with eggs, mustard, ketchup and petroleum jelly. Maple syrup had been poured into the gas tank, rendering the engine unable to start.
Smith says that classmates sometimes would address her with the N-word. Occasionally, some would make racist comments, such as telling her on a school bus, “Get to the back of the bus.”
“But,” she says, “it’s never been like this.”
She told authorities she believes the vandalism to be the handiwork of a former friend and an accomplice, both of whom are white. Following a fall-out, the former friend recently left a phone message that warned Smith, “You won’t have that truck for very long,” she told authorities. However, not expecting anything as rash as vandalism, Smith said she erased the message.
Homeowner Marlow says she’d never experienced any anti-Semitism at her residence.
“It’s kind of scary,” Marlow says. “They came onto my property and did something like this. That concerns me.”
Smith and Marlow reported the attack to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Jeff Standard said investigators are tracking down leads, and his department plans to send out a CrimeStoppers request for tips.
“We’ve had no other incidents of this type,” he says. ” ... It’s wrong on so many levels.”
The vandalism alone would likely be a felony. However, the racial and anti-semitic epithets would merit a more severe charge.
“If we find who did this, we’ll charge a hate crime,” the sheriff says.
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at (309)547-2277.
Meantime, a GoFundMe page has been set up by Marlow seeking $3,000 to repair or replace the truck. As of noon Tuesday, almost $4,000 had been raised.
“I hadn’t expected that kind of response,” Marlow says.
Meantime, though irate, Smith says she is focusing on heading to Bradley in the fall to study criminal justice.
“I’m just going to walk away from this situation,” Smith says. “I don’t want (the vandals) disrespecting the people I live with. I’m going to Bradley in August, so it won’t be that long.”