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Four Arrested After Cross Burned At Black Family’s Home

April 11, 1986

TILGHMAN, Md. (AP) _ Four people were arrested Thursday and charged with burning a cross at the home of a black family that moved into all-white Tilghman, police said.

The 5-foot charred cross was found Sunday morning in a lane leading to the waterfront home rented by Miles Gray Jr., his wife and two children.

″My first reaction was that maybe I should ignore this,″ said Gray, a motel executive who moved here about two months ago from Virginia Beach, Va. ″Then I thought, if I ignore this, the next thing I know, they’ll be standing in my front yard.″

Venessa Parks, 25, and Patrick Murphy, Gilbert Tyler, and Shelton Mister, all 23, each were charged with one count of cross-burning, three counts of breaking and entering a boat, one count of theft over $300, one count of malicious destruction of property and two counts of conspiracy. All four live in Tilghman. They were being held in Talbot County Jail in Easton pending a bond hearing.

State police said all the charges were related to the cross burning, but did not explain the breaking and entering of the boat or the theft charge.

If convicted on all charges, the defendants would each face up to 44 years in prison and fines of $13,500, said state Trooper Samuel Shelly.

On Maryland’s Eastern Shore, many blacks live in poverty. Some of them work on Tilghman Island. Gray said he knew little about the area before he moved here.

″I figured it was only an hour from Washington. ... I was under the impression I was moving farther north and it would be a nice place to live,″ Gray said.

″I hit Easton and said, ’Hey, buddy, you stepped back in a time zone here,‴ he said. ″You can feel it in Easton. On Tilghman Island, you’re in the twilight zone.″

Gray said the family had received reassuring cards and phone calls from Tilghman residents since the incident.

The town is on a 2 1/2 -mile-long island located at the southern tip of Talbot County, one of the wealthiest counties in Maryland.

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