Neighbours said the display of hate in a Lorton, Virginia community was as large as it was shocking: a swastika roughly 12m across mowed into the grass of a community field.
Tyre marks from a riding mower ran from the lot, up a road to the home of a teen known as troubled in the neighbourhood, leaving little mystery as to the perpetrator, a neighbour said. Residents of Gunston Manor were soon debating how to handle the situation: go to police or talk to the teen's family directly?
The latter plan won out and now some regret that decision.
The incident came roughly two months before the 17-year-old allegedly shot and killed the parents of his 16-year-old girlfriend in their Reston, Virginia, home last week.
Scott Fricker, 48, and Buckley Kuhn-Fricker, 43, had forbade their daughter from seeing the teen, after family and friends said the couple discovered a Twitter account they believed was linked to the teen that retweeted tweets praising Hitler, making derogatory comments about Jews, calling for "white revolution," and picturing an image of a man hanging from a noose beneath a slur for gays.
The teen, who has been charged with two counts of murder, remains in hospital in critical condition after turning the gun on himself.
Penny Potter, a neighbour, agreed to share the story of the swastika because she wanted it to serve as a cautionary tale to report early warning signs before a tragedy occurs. She doesn't know if neighbours had contacted police if the Frickers might still be alive, but believes there is a greater likelihood they would have.
"We live in a very safe neighbourhood where kids can ride their bikes and not worry about anything," Potter said. "For the first time, I was fearful that there was someone living in our neighbourhood who was capable of incredibly irrational behaviour. If you see something that makes you say, 'huh,' just call police. They can tell you if it's appropriate."
Potter said she first became aware of the swastika around October 20 or October 23, after another neighbour called her husband about it. Potter said her husband sometimes mows the community lot.
We live in a very safe neighbourhood where kids can ride their bikes and not worry about anything
Potter's husband, who described the mowed symbol to her and took a photo of it, said the grass in the field was a little long and the portions making up the swastika were cut close to the turf. Potter said her husband told her the swastika was roughly 12m across and about 12m tall and was unmistakably the Nazi emblem.
A group of neighbours got together to figure out the best way to deal with the situation, said Potter.
Potter said residents decided to send an emissary to the family's home to discuss the swastika a couple days after it was discovered. Potter said the teen's parents admitted he had mowed the symbol into the grass. She said they were aware of his behavioural issues and were getting him treatment.
"They were going to take care of it," Potter said. "They were aware of it."
There was no answer at the 17-year-old's home today, and family members previously have declined to comment.
Family and friends of the Frickers said the couple had grown so worried about their daughter's relationship with the 17-year-old that they contacted officials at the private school the two youths attended to share their concerns about his suspected neo-Nazi views.
Recently, the Frickers staged an intervention to try to convince their daughter to stay away from the boyfriend. After a difficult meeting, the girl seem to agree that would be best, said her grandmother, Janet Kuhn.
Kuhn said detectives have told the family that the fatal confrontation unfolded last weekend when her daughter and son-in-law heard a noise in the home. The couple went to check on their daughter and found the boyfriend in her room.
When Scott Fricker confronted him, the youth pulled out a gun and shot, Kuhn said police told the family.
Fairfax County police have declined to comment on the family's account. Today, they said they also would not discuss how the alleged shooter may have gotten the gun.
"We aren't releasing anything further at this point as he is a minor," said Julie Parker, a police spokesperson.
Ed Munz, president of the Gunston Manor Property Owners Association, said he only learned of the swastika after other neighbours had spoken to the teen's family. He said he was not involved in the debate about what to do about it.
Munz said neighbours were "disgusted and embarrassed" by the swastika, so they mowed the field in such a way that the swastika was no longer visible.
On Christmas Eve, Munz sent an email message to members of the community association about the swastika incident. He urged anyone that had information to come forward.
"People who know anything of the event should step forward and speak with the police," Munz wrote in the message.
"My hope in this is that neighbors will understand that coming forward can save people's lives by reporting such behaviour," Munz wrote in an email to the Washington Post.