*Pasco County, Florida resident, Thomas Herris Sigler III, and his accomplice, William A. Dennis, were finally handed down sentences in relation to a shocking cross burning incident carried out in 2012, outside of a neighbor’s home.
Released court documents show that the two men, residents of a mostly white Pasco County community known as Seward Drive, conspired to commit the crime along with other residents at a Halloween party, shortly after an interracial couple moved in next door.
Sigler, Dennis and others reportedly gathered wood, gasoline and other tools and carried the cross to their neighbors’ yard together before setting it alight in full view. In later statements, Sigler describes his actions as an attempt to force his neighbors from their home.
The incident was the culmination of several racist attacks carried out against the couple, with Sigler admitting at one point to punching the male half of the couple in the face, before repeatedly calling him racial slurs.
Pascual Carlos Pietri, another man reportedly involved in the case, had been charged earlier for his part in the cross burning, having been sentenced to 37-months in prison back in March 2016. Sigler and Dennis were sentenced to 33, and 21 months respectively with both men set to receive three years of post-release probation after release.
Sigler has a previous record having been arrested for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, driving without a license and felony DUI already. In 2013, he was arrested for sexual battery, rape and kidnapping of a victim younger than 12 years old.
Speaking out at his sentencing, Sigler claimed remorse for his actions in the incident, stating that he felt ashamed for his family. He said that he was using his time in prison to study the Bible, and to try come to terms with his alcoholism, drug addiction and abusive past. Meanwhile Dennis apologized to the victims of his crime as well as the courts for “this mess.”
While the victims weren’t present at court to hear the final sentence being passed down, the girlfriend identified by courts only as K.L did release this statement, which was read out by the judge before sentencing.
“It felt like we had our very own, personal group of terrorists…I truly cannot imagine living with that much anger inside…But you showed me what hate is all about.”
K.L went on to describe how she now lives in constant fear of one day coming home to the news that her boyfriend has been killed, and the she sleeps with one eye open, finding herself constantly looking over her shoulder. A stark contrast to the quiet, idyllic rural Midwestern upbringing she writes about.