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Contractor gets death threats over Facebook rumor

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CORVALLIS, Mont. - A Corvallis contractor said a Facebook post has sparked threats against his business and him.

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said it is his understanding that it started out as a college classroom project that grew out of control after a picture of an apartment project was published on social media.

John King is president of J&J Excavating and Trucking in Corvallis.

King recently built two four-plexes east of Hamilton from the ground up. They are almost finished.

He built the structures, speculating that they would appeal to single workers in the area, perhaps Stock Farm Club workers or employees at one of the Bitterroot's science laboratories.

He was shocked to learn that his apartments were posted on social media as housing possibilities for something very different.

"Somebody took a picture of these," said King, "and posted it on Facebook, saying this was a new home for the Syrian refugees."

King said they are not. But the contractor said since the photo was posted last spring his life has drastically changed.

He said anonymous threats have accused him of "selling out to the Obama administration and the Muslims."

King calls himself a conservative Republican. But he said he is not political.

Since the posting he said he has been inundated with threats.

"Threatening to burn us down," he said, "or shoot me or hang me."

King's J&J Excavating and Trucking is a prominent company in the valley. King has two large shops and at times employs as many as 100 people.

He said in his company mailbox he has received the same letter 800 or 1,200 times.

The contractor held up a copy the letter. It said "You don't deserve to live. We will be asking for help to run you out of Montana and burn your buildings to the ground."

King, who has millions of dollars in company real estate, trucks and other heavy equipment is worried sick. He is constantly checking that everything is OK.

"It's no sleep," he said. "And the stress is out of this world."

King said he is getting as many as 10 to 100 threats a day on his cellphone. He said he is reluctant to change the number because so many coworkers depend on being able to get hold of him.

"It's almost like a recorded robot type voice." he said. He said they call at his home in the middle of the night. "They throw bottles at the house," he said, "and fire guns."

The contractor has a family.

"The other day somebody threw out a doll with a noose around its neck," he said.

Every time there is a terrorist attack in the world, he said, the calls spike. He said the last massive infusion of calls came after the terrorist attack in Nice, France.

"I probably had 150 to 200 nasty threats within a two-day period after that attack," he said.

J&J Construction has working projects all over the state. King said he should be supervising one out of town right now. But he said he doesn't feel comfortable leaving his home and family or his business and coworkers.

The Ravalli County Sheriff's office has investigated the threats.

Sheriff Chris Hoffman said the case shows just how dangerous rumors can be, especially because of how Syrian refugees divided the area.

"We didn't have anyone hurt," said Hoffman. "But this is a volatile subject."

"Remember to take what you read on Facebook or anywhere on the internet with a grain of salt before you pass it on or forward it. Before you make a conclusion try to do some research."

Earlier this year Ravalli County commissioners voted to oppose bringing Syrian refugees into the Bitterroot. They held a public hearing which brought out hundreds of people. Most of those people expressed opposition to relocating refugees to Ravalli County.

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