Lesbian couple in Vonore says house fire is hate crime
Lesbian couple in Vonore feel house fire is hate crime
By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter
VONORE (WATE) - The home of Carol and Laura Stutte on County Road 320 in Vonore was destroyed by fire last Saturday.
The word "queers" was also spray painted in large letters on their garage.
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.
She also says recently the neighbor threatened to kill them and burn down their house," Stutte said. "I knew we had been threatened, but we never thought anything would be followed through,"
Lora Black, the Stutte's neighbor and friend, was with the couple in Nashville when they learned their home was on fire.
"Right now, they are just terrified that our county is feeling like this about homosexual couples. Most homosexual couples are no different than any other couples," Black said.
The Stuttes are staying in a safe house until investigators can determine what happened the night of the fire.
"I would really like to see them get help," Carol Stutte said. "I don't want anyone else to go through what we've gone through and live through the fear we've gone through."
The couple says they have no plans to return to the property.
The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is still investigating the fire, trying to determine if it was a hate crime. Investigators have called in the state Bomb and Arson Squad to help.
The sheriff's office received one complaint of harassment from the couple in August.
The neighbor the Stuttes say made the threat declined to go on camera.