Two North Carolina homes belonging to the Judge family were set on fire this year, both while family members were inside. The property belongs to a beloved matriarch of Duplin County, 88-year-old Rebecca Judge, whose family is well known in the area for their community service. However, the incidents were met with a lack of action from law enforcement and the family believes the arsons were racially-motivated.
The Judge family are known for their work to better the community from volunteering to social justice. Alexander Lee Judge Sr. made a huge economic impact on the county with commercial farming and transporting crops. Rebecca Judge was honored with a plaque in the Duplin County Hall of Fame for her work as a school board member, nurse and civil rights activist. Though, after all their years working together, she never heard from Duplin County Sheriff Dalton Wallace regarding the fires.
The family is working now with Courtney Patterson, the fourth vice president of the NAACP NC and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to call for a proper investigation into who committed these crimes and possibly file a suit.
“If the law enforcement doesn’t investigate, then it’s time for the NAACP to investigate the law enforcement. We will use every tool we have with our local NAACP, our state conference of branches and the National Association to make sure that justice is served” said Patterson via press conference.
About the fires from SCJC:
On January 26, 2022, long-time community advocate Rebecca Judge and her daughter Beverly Judge watched her family home and four vehicles in Duplin County burn while local firefighters used only one hose to extinguish the flames. Beverly Judge was told by a firefighter, with a smirk on his face, “We are out of water.” Investigators quickly determined the fire was intentionally set. However, in the months following the arson, law enforcement has given the family no indication that a thorough investigation is taking place.
On May 4, Ayisha Bullock (Beverly Judge’s daughter) and her two children, both under the age of 10, were asleep at home when they were awakened by a loud explosion and glass breaking. Their home and two vehicles had also been intentionally set on fire. Bullock and her children were able to escape, but had to run through flames to get out of the home. First responders were shocked to find them alive, according to the family.
“Not only was it horrifying to be in the home and to escape a fire - there’s no words that can describe that. But then to watch the home burn over nine hours is something that I just cannot understand. It is beyond belief to me” said Beverly Judge, daughter of Alexander Lee and Rebecca. Her brother, Alexander Lee Judge Jr., also said the family felt neglected and mistreated by the fire department.
The family was racially targeted even before these two incidents. Since 2015, members of the Judge family had been profiled by police, harassed with gunfire on their property and their pet animals died mysteriously of what Beverly presumed was poisoning.
As a result, some community members said they feel unsafe knowing the arsonist is still on the loose and may retaliate against any associates of the Judge family. At this point, the Judge family wants answers to who set the fire, why there was a lack of response from Duplin County firefighters and what the police are doing regarding the investigation.
“It seems like we are treated like we don’t matter but let me tell you, we do matter and you’re going to find it out. Beverly said all she wants is answers - there’s a lot more because for me and I’m sure for her and the rest of the family, we want that culprit to be found and punished,” said Rebecca.