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ST. PETER — A gay St. Peter couple who received an anonymous letter Thursday full of anti-gay slurs and threats on their life and their daughter’s life say they were tempted to leave their home and stay with family.

But the women, who preferred to remain anonymous, said they believe the letter writer lives near them, and they don’t want him or her to believe the threats had their intended effect.

“If someone from the neighborhood is watching and thinking, ‘I scared them out,’” one of the women said, “no, they have not.”

The letter suggests the couple is mentally ill, that they are lowering property values and that their friends are “too scared to say that you freak them out.” It continues in an even darker tone.

“You never know … your house could be torched, a gun could be used to eliminate you,” the letter states. It also specifically threatens their school-age daughter, saying “She needs to look out behind her back also ... I know where she goes to school!”

St. Peter police are investigating the letter as a possible crime, Chief Matt Peters said. It isn’t part of a trend; there haven’t been any similar letters in St. Peter recently, he said.

The women say they were shocked to receive the letter, which was typed and mailed, and have no idea who wrote it.

“I have never, ever in my entire life felt unsafe in St. Peter,” one of the women said. “This is where I grew up. This is my home.”

The supportive response — including on Facebook, where a family member and the couple’s attorney posted the letter — have been heartening.

“If anything, it’s made me more proud to live in St. Peter,” she said. “Reading and hearing and seeing all the amazing things that people are saying and doing for us.”

Friends will drive by and honk, and police officers have been very supportive and helpful, she said.

That said, both women want the letter writer found, and their attorney, Lori Peterson of Minneapolis, believes publicizing the letter may help expose its author. (To see a copy of the letter, which contains repeated slurs and offensive language, click here.)

For example, Peterson said the letter writer uses the odd term “faggotism.” It’s a rare formulation on the slur, and one that the writer may have used before, even in another context.

Even though the couple believes they still have a supportive community, the letter has left them shaken and wondering anew at the secret thoughts of strangers.

“Once one bit of doubt is put in your head, and maybe that’s me, that’s all I can think about,” one of the women said.

They’ve told their school-age daughter they received a mean letter but have left out the details. They worry about what their girl will hear from classmates when school starts.

The school district is aware of the threat and believes schools have an important role to help children feel safe and welcome, Supt. Paul Peterson said in an email.

“When challenges like this occur in the greater community, teachers, principals and student support staff provide all necessary resources to help kids process and most importantly, reinforce that they are cared for and welcomed by their school and community,” he wrote.

Bias crime possible

Minnesota law does not specifically define a “hate crime,” but there are several laws that mandate enhanced penalties if a person is found to have acted with bias against a protected class. If that occurs, a crime that would otherwise been a misdemeanor could be a gross misdemeanor and a gross misdemeanor could be a felony.

Peters, the police chief, suggested social media play a role in the proliferation of hateful correspondence, which can now reach a mass audience.

“It’s easy to get people to react,” he said. “People that make anonymous threats basically have zero understanding of what they’re doing or they’re cowards” because they refuse to sign their name.

Those with information about the letter can call St. Peter police at 507-931-1550. Peterson, the couple’s attorney, said those with information also can email her at loripeterson@loripetersonlawfirm.com.

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