NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Town of Niagara man was sentenced Wednesday to 2 1/3 to 7 years in state prison for a hate crime after vandalizing his neighbor’s fence with a racial slur.

61-year-old Howard Murphy pleaded guilty in February to criminal mischief in the second degree, as a hate crime, for the incident that took place just two days after the Buffalo mass shooting.

Johnny Parks said his family woke up to a violent message on May 16: “KILL ALL (racial expletives)” was written on the their backyard fence.

Parks said he never had much interaction with Murphy since moving into the house a decade ago. Neighbors sprung to the Parks family’s defense following the incident and Home Depot replaced the fence for free.

Parks said the sentencing is a step forward for his family. Murphy offered an apology in court Wednesday, but Parks called it insincere.

“Your excuse is hollow,” Judge Caroline Wojtaszek told Murphy in court.

Parks hopes that his neighborhood can move forward now without hate.

Note: This story initially misstated the length of the sentence. It is up to 7 years.

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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as the Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.