09/12/10-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
Carol Ann Stutte and her partner Laura Stutte have been the victims of a hate crime. Arsonists torched their Vonore, Tennessee home and spray painted the word “queers” on their garage. Now the couple is afraid to return to what is left of their home. “We would love to stay (in the area), but we will never, never rebuild (on that property) again. I take someone with me constantly — one or two people to make sure I’m OK while I’m up there.”
Detective Travis Jones of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department has stated that the authorities are not releasing any details about the fire that happened on 4 September at 10pm. The home is a complete loss for the couple that has been together for sixteen years. The house was unoccupied at the time. The couple were in Nashville celebrating their five year anniversary of having moved to that property. Carol Stutte’s daughter from a previous marriage was suppose to be home at the time, but went with the couple to celebrate. According to Carol Stutte “She would’ve been trapped.”
According to Jones “It is an arson and we are continuing the investigation. There are people of interest in the case.” Interviews are still being conducted in relation to this case.
Off an on for the last five years, the couple has been harassed and threatened typically by one particular neighbor. “The last in-depth threats were several weeks ago,” Carol Stutte said. “We tried to turn the other cheek and overlook it. When (the latest threats) finally happened we throught we better go file a police report. (The threats) have really been scaring us for some time.”
The couple has had the support and help of several people in the ara. Becky Lucas, president of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Maryville, is outraged over the arson. She stated “We are hopeful that the authorities will investigate it fully and that this couple will get justice. 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. We want to send a message to this couple and other couples like them — you do have many allies in this area. Many people in the community are just as outraged as I am.”
Tennessee has been the site of a number of hate crimes against lesbians, gays, and transpeople in the last two years with several unsolved murders involving transwomen having been committed.