LUNENBURG — The investigation into who spray-painted a racial slur on the home of a biracial high school football player took another twist Tuesday, as state and local police conducted a search of the house.
The search took place a day after police said they had concluded that the football team was not involved in the graffiti and said they were investigating other suspects. That has spawned speculation in the town of nearly 10,000 people that the message left on the home's foundation last month was a hoax.
On Tuesday, state and local officers executed a search warrant at the Chase Road home of Anthony J. Phillips, the father of 13-year-old Isaac Phillips, a former Lunenburg Blue Knights football player who reported being harassed by teammates. Authorities declined to comment Tuesday evening on the search and what they had found.
The handful of vile words has sent this small town northwest of Boston abuzz. On Nov. 15, graffiti that included the N-word was discovered, and the team was forced to forfeit the remainder of the season while police investigated who was responsible.
Now, with the team cleared, some here felt a measure of vindication Tuesday, but are still awaiting answers about the origins of the vandalism that thrust the town into the national spotlight.
About a dozen residents stood in the roadway outside the Phillips' home as police went about their search. Among them were members of the team.
"We would have never done this," said Danny Szabady, 18, a senior and a team cocaptain. "We always knew it wasn't us.''
Steve Boone, the school's head football coach, said in an e-mail to the Globe: "I am very happy that the team was cleared of the allegations.''
The incident has prompted soul-searching in Lunenburg, where racial minorities make up just a small sliver of the population. Days after the vandalism, several hundred residents gathered in the center of town for a candlelight vigil to show their support for Isaac Phillips, who played on Lunenburg's freshman and junior varsity teams.
"I'm sick to my stomach," said Michelle Belleza, who runs the Boys and Girls Club that sits just a few hundred feet from the high school, where she graduated in 1995. "As much as you want to know who did it, you also don't want to know. There's no good answer."
Students at the high school said that the confusion dominated conversation between classes and in the lunchroom Tuesday.
"We don't know what to think, or who did it," said one student as he headed to his car after classes ended.
"I just don't want to speculate," added one of his friends.
Students said that the news that the football team had been cleared provided little solace to a campus that feels that it was robbed of the football season.
"There's not much that can be done at this point," said John Gervais, a 15-year-old freshman. "I think everyone just wishes they would have figured this out before they canceled the end of the football season."
The football field and bright blue track that surround it were deserted as hundreds of students boarded buses when classes ended in the early afternoon. Out front, the large white sign outside of the high school, which houses grades 8 to 12 declared: "Many hands. One community."
Phillips' parents, who after the incident were vocal in decrying what they saw as an act of racial intimidation targeting their son, have stopped responding to reporters' calls.
Phillips’ father, who is black, and his mother, who is white, could be seen walking around the property as police conducted the search Tuesday. They both declined to speak with reporters gathered outside of their home.
"You all can camp out here all night," Anthony Phillips said after the police left. "I have no comment."
Asked by a reporter whether the police were there to arrest him, Anthony Phillips responded, "Well, what does it look like?" He then walked back up his driveway and into the house.
In the early evening, the boy's grandfather, James Phillips, arrived to ask about the search.
After speaking briefly with Anthony, James Phillips walked back down the driveway. His son, he said, refused to give him any information about the police search.
"Whoever is responsible for this needs to be held accountable," James Phillips said outside the house, adding that if his son was responsible for carrying out a hoax, he should be punished.
"Wrong is wrong," he said.
Wesley Lowery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.