Lesbian Couple’s Home Burned Down in Possible Hate Crime

A lesbian couple from Vonore, Monroe County, Tennessee, are afraid to return to the charred remains of their home after it was burned to the ground and the word “Queer” was spray painted on the side of their garage in what is being investigated as a potential hate crime.

Lesbian Couple Subjected to Threats and Intimidation
The couple in question, Carol Ann Stutte and partner Laura Stutte, were on a visit to Nashville when the incident happened on Saturday, September 4.

They were celebrating the anniversary of their having moved to the state.

Carol Strutte’s adult daughter from a previous marriage, would have been in the house at the time had she not been unwell and made other arrangements.

From Wate.com:

The couple feels they’re victims of a hate crime, and were targeted because they’re gay. They’ve been together for more than 15 years.

Carol Stutte has an adult daughter from a previous relationship who also lived with them.

At the time of the fire, they were in Nashville celebrating their fifth anniversary in Tennessee.

“My daughter was supposed to be here. She was sick,” Carol Stutte said. “I was grateful my baby girl didn’t get killed in this fire. She would have been trapped in the basement.”

The couple moved to Vonore from Oklahoma.

Carol Stutte says her partner is too afraid to come back to the property since the fire. She says they’ve been harassed all five years they’ve lived there by one neighbor.

The couple alleges that the neighbor had reportedly threatened to kill them and burn down their house. They filed a police complaint following the most recent threat in August, although the exact details of the complaint have not been released.

Detective Travis Jones, with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, has confirmed that the department is investigating the arson with the aid of the state Bomb and Arson Squad, that there are “people of interest” in the case – though he has not elaborated further – and that they are considering the possibility of the incident being a hate crime, though, again, this is as far as the investigation has gone in this regard and nothing has been proven.  

The couple are now in a safe house while the investigation is being carried out, but the attack has left them so shaken that they are afraid to return to the remains of the house alone and are quoted as saying that, even though they would like to remain in the area, they will never rebuild on the same site.

Couple Left With Nothing Now Rely on Community’s Kindness
As to the couple’s possessions, they have been left with virtually nothing, with the scene being described as “a black hole”.

Yet, while they say they have been the target of prejudice, not just from the one neighbor but by several people in the area, The Daily Times reports how other members of the community have come together to help the couple:

Becky Lucas, president of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Maryville, said she is outraged by the Vonore arson.

“We are hopeful that the authorities will investigate it fully and that this couple will get justice,” she said Friday. “I think this happens every day to people in this community and many times they don’t speak up because they are afraid. Everybody deserves basic human rights.”

She also said she wants the Stuttes to know they have support in the area.

“We want to send a message to this couple and other couples like them — you do have many allies in this area,” Lucas said. “Many people in the community are just as outraged as I am.”

As such, PFLAG Maryville has sent out a call for donations on behalf of the couple, whereby the have requested women’s clothing, household items and dog food for the couple’s three dogs. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church is also collecting monetary donations on behalf of the couple.

For more information on how you can get involved in helping the couple, please click here to go to the PFLAG Maryville site.

Hat tip to Pam’s House Blend for this story.

Updates for this story will appear here.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to maryjanie36


Mitch F.
Mitch F6 years ago

And the right wing strikes again

patti ng
patti ng6 years ago

Not everyone in TN feels the same as the people in this story. There are always those that seem to try their best to hurt others and make them look bad. I am sorry for the ladies in this story and hope they are doing well.

Nick Rowland
Nick Rowland6 years ago

Words alone can not express the contempt that I feel for the arsonist. Sadly it's not surprising when there these far right politicians and nutty pastors spew out such hatred towards those who do not agree with them or like their life styles.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin6 years ago

Michael G O'Leary: Just becauase someone robs, threats or beat you, it can't be condsidered a hate crime. By definition a crime of hate is when someone deliberately aim at a person or a group of people that he or she dislikes. A robber may not love you, but he/she isn't robbing you because of the color of your skin, your gender, origin, religious beliefs, cultural background or sexual identity. He/she is robbing you to get hold of your possesions. Simple, but true.

Sheri P.
Sheri P7 years ago

Sad, sad, sad! Why are people so hurtful and mean?

Monique Freericks

I don´t understand it. People who do this are sqared and cowards. Let everybody believe what he wants and if You don´t like it go away.

David M.
David M.7 years ago

Despicable, cowardly and mindless.

Sarah D.
Sarah D7 years ago

Disgusting. I hope the person who did this to their house suffers.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

Live and let live. Disgusting people to hurt others in this way.

michael g o'leary
michael o'leary7 years ago

tell me somthing because i'm somewhat confused. if a person breaks into your house is he doing so because he likes you? if a person mugs you is it because he likes you? if a person steals your car from you is it because he likes you? if someone beats you or stabs you or robs you or commits any kind of criminal act against you or your family is it because hr likes you? the answer is no. because every crime is a hate crime. and we don't need a special definition of crime given to certain people. a crime is crime is a crime. can you figure that out. if you can't then i would be more than happy to better explain it to you. and i can do it without commiting a crime if that's what you were thinking.