A Kerhonkson family’s home has been vandalized numerous times over the past two months, with the pastor of a Kingston church questioned by state police as a potential suspect.
The Rev. Darlene Kelley, pastor at the Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church and the coordinator of the Caring Hands Soup Kitchen, is widely regarded as one of the city’s most dedicated to helping its needy. So news that she was called in by troopers for questioning, first reported by Paula Ann Mitchell for the HVNN.com website, came as a shock to many.
Interviewed this week by the Kingston Times, Kelley said she was read her Miranda rights and “interrogated” by state police at their barracks in Wawarsing earlier this month about continued vandalism at a home in Kerhonkson. The home, owned by Julie and Brian Foppes, is set back from Queens Highway and fronted by a six-foot stockade fence. The fence features prominent ads for Julie Foppes’ business, Julie’s Pies & Cheesecakes. But it was other decorations — namely signs supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, that brought Kelley and Foppes together.
In June, Kelley sent Foppes a message through the Facebook page of Julie’s Pies & Cheesecakes which read, “[Trump] is a nightmare, and I’m hoping you understand how dangerous he is. I am your neighbor and your signs hurt our country. Thank you for your consideration.”
Kelley said the message, which she sent on Monday, June 20, was the culmination of a deep immersion in what has become a highly charged political climate.
“Monday mornings I’m really exhausted and it’s my day off,” she said. “I’m a news junkie and a political junkie, and I was probably going back and forth between Charlie Rose and PBS and MSNBC, and I’m pretty sure that a political candidate must have said something that really put me over the top. I’ve been very offended by much of what has come out of this campaign, as I’m sure many people are.”
Kelley added that seeing the Trump banner alongside ads for Julie’s Pies & Cheesecakes gave her the impression that this was someone who might be open to a dialogue about politics.
“I kind of felt like she was somebody that wanted to reach out, that she was somebody trying to get attention,” Kelley said. “And in my little arrogant, overtired way, I wrote, ‘Please consider taking down your Trump signs.’ I didn’t write anything about her or say anything that I considered threatening; I talked about him. I said, ‘I think he’s a danger to this country.’ I should have said I was her neighbor and I had to drive by it all the time, and it upset me every morning.”
In her response to Kelley’s Facebook message, Foppes said she was free to show support for Trump on her own property.
“I choose to support and vote for Trump and will not be deterred from doing so,” the response read. “Unfortunately, non-Trump supporters like yourself feel that it is perfectly OK to infringe on my constitutional rights,” Foppes wrote. “I have had people yell profanities at me for wearing a Trump shirt and now I’m being harassed by you on Facebook just because my opinion is different than yours. This is what I call bullying. Trump is the not the one you should fear; the anti-Trump person standing next to you is the one you should fear. Do not message me anymore.”
And that, Kelley believed, was that.
“As soon as I read her response I realized I’d made a huge mistake,” she said. “I just took the bait, and what a fool I am. I was mad at myself and felt like an idiot. And I promptly forgot about it. I’m a busy woman, I have 9,000 things and got outraged about something else an hour later.”
Nearly three weeks later, for two straight nights on July 9 and 10, the vandalism started. In a series of photographs provided by Foppes, the family’s stockade fencing is broken, with signs advertising her business, banners in support of Trump and the American flag defaced with spray paint. After it happened the first night, Foppes said she and her husband installed a camera along the fence; it caught a blurred image of a perpetrator state police have confirmed is a young white male. After a brief respite, Foppes said the vandalism continued on August 6, 11 and 12, and most recently early on Tuesday morning of this week. Foppes said they’ve installed more cameras, which have provided a much clearer picture of the vandal, but they still haven’t managed to catch him in the act.