Couple thinks vandals targeted home due to transgender symbols

Ottawa County

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — An Allendale woman believes she may have been targeted due to political signs and a transgender flag flying in her front yard.

Jady Morelli and her partner Amy Russell have lived in the area for about 12 years. On their front porch, there is a large pink and blue flag waving to show support and solidarity for the transgender community, of which Morelli is proudly a member. In their yard, there are political signs showing their intentions to vote for several Democratic candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

The two say they received the shock of a lifetime around 5 p.m. Monday when what they believe to be a bullet came through their front window.

“I heard just the sound of glass breaking,” Morelli recalled.

Whatever it was, it left a small hole in their screen and shattered a large portion of their window. They were not able to find a shell casing.

“This is assault and it could’ve killed someone,” Russell said.

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that deputies were called to the home and are investigating. It says there is not a lot of information to go on, but noted that target practice is not uncommon in the rural area.

The homeowners say this isn’t the first problem, leading them to believe it was intentional.

“Ever since we put the transgender flag up, we’ve had our property vandalized and it’s a hard thing to go through,” Morelli said. “It just brings it right home that there are people out there who want to hurt you for who you are.”

First, a mailbox they built for their elderly neighbor was smashed a few days after being put up. Morelli said the mailbox was painted bright purple and due to where mail is picked up was in their yard, not their neighbor’s. She and Russell believe the person who vandalized the mailbox thought it belonged to them.

Then in 2017, the trans flag that hangs in front of their door was ripped in half. In the summer 2019, Morelli and Russell say their shutters, which are painted to resemble the transgender flag, were ripped off their home. Although fixed, they say, there is still damage to the bricks behind the shutters.

A flag showing the colors for the transgender community hanging on Jady Morelli and Amy Russell’s home. (Oct. 20, 2020)

“Everybody should and has the right to express themselves,” Morelli said. “This is not meant to be a threat to anybody. It’s just a statement to other people out there like me: We exist.”

News 8 has chosen not to show the entirety of Morelli and Russell’s home or give out additional information about the neighborhood to protect them from any potential harassment.

Despite any potential threats, the couple says they still intend to be outwardly proud of who they are.

“Honestly it’s not about cis(gender) people. It’s for other trans people, especially trans kids in this community,” Russell said of the flag. “They need to know they’re not alone. Jady grew up knowing what it’s like to feel alone.”

“I think flying a trans flag and having shutters painted trans colors … it’s something I can do for people who may be closeted, who go by every day in the school bus and they see that and they go, ‘There’s somebody like me in this community,'” Morelli added.

The damage to their window remains under investigation. Authorities say they’re not yet taking anything off the table when it comes to who is responsible and why. Anyone with information about what happened is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 616.738.4000 or Silent Observer at 877.887.4536.

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