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Raymond Stevens, a New Hampshire tattoo parlor owner, has no criminal record, or any other obvious connection to a series of racist graffiti defacements in Concord during the fall of 2011. He does, however, draw the letter "b" in a very unusual way. And that "b" is exactly what led Det. Wade Brown to gather enough evidence for Stevens's arrest on Tuesday on felony criminal mischief charges. 

Stevens draws his lowercase "b's" like the number six, exactly like the "b's" found scrawled on the homes of three African refugee families, all with small children. According to the Associated Press, who detailed Brown's work, the three messages said things like "The subhumans in this house are enjoying a free ride," "Go back to your hell and leave us alone," and "We cannot coexist with Third World scum." 

Brown apparently focused in on the "b" immediately, enough to do an extensive search of criminal records and complaints on file with Concord police for the unusually shaped letter. When that didn't work, he turned to another set of files on hand: over 1,500 gun permit applications. The AP explains what happened when Brown looked at Steven's file: 

"Three telltale "b's" appeared to be an exact match to the racist messages," Brown wrote. He said the handwriting similarities were "so striking" that he focused on that application and the man who submitted it.

There were other clues in the handwriting, especially with the way the "u’s," "s’s" and "y’s" were written, along with the peculiar word choice in the messages that later matched phrases attributable to the suspect. Stevens also used to live near the vandalized homes. The Nashua Telegraph notes that Stevens also had connections to white supremacist groups in Connecticut, and a previous history of racist vandalism. According to the Telegraph, police couldn't seem to stop finding evidence building a case against Stevens once Brown connected him to the case from that gun permit: 

Brown researched Stevens on social media sites and found several pages that included racist cartoons and diatribes, plus YouTube videos that included “disturbing and violent” comments about minorities. A search of his home, vehicle and the Nashua tattoo shop turned up more white supremacist literature, including a letter that appeared to be a first-person justification of the graffiti incidents in Concord contained in a pamphlet for the American Nazi party, according to the affidavit. 

Stevens faces 10-30 years in jail for the crimes, an unusually steep penalty prompted by the racial motivations investigators believe prompted the graffiti. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.