Louisiana woman set self on fire, wrote "KKK" on own car

All DNA evidence pointed to self-immolation in incident believed at first to be vicious racist attack

By Natasha Lennard

Published October 24, 2012 4:40PM (EDT)

 Winnsboro, LA, site of the incident (Wikimedia)
Winnsboro, LA, site of the incident (Wikimedia)

When news emerged of a 20-year-old Louisiana woman hospitalized for severe burns with "KKK" scrawled on her car, everything pointed to a vicious racist attack. However, an examination of DNA evidence led police to believe that Sharmeka Moffitt set herself afire and wrote on her own car in toothpaste. On Tuesday night, Moffitt admitted as much.

According to Louisiana's Gant Daily News, "Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas announced that Moffitt confirmed she set herself on fire, and scrawled the initials on her car. Her motive remains unknown." The young woman had originally told police that she was attacked by three men in white hoodies.

“This has been a very disturbing case for all involved,” local sheriff Kevin Cobb said at a press conference. “All of the evidence indicates this was a self-inflicted situation.”

It is not yet clear whether Moffitt will face any charges. While many questions remain over the incident and possible motives, the original reports of a hate crime did nonetheless confirm a recognition of persistent racism in the state. As Salon noted Tuesday, Otis Chisley, president of the local branch of the NAACP, said racism remained "prevalent throughout Louisiana"; his statement, and the extent with which a hate crime seemed plausible, remain important aspects of this shocking story.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Crime Hate Crime Kkk Louisiana Self-harm Self-immolation