Vonore, TN - Carol Ann Stutte and her partner, Laura Stutte, are afraid to return alone to what is left of their Vonore home in Monroe County.
After being victims of an arson and having the word “queers” spray painted on their garage, the lesbian couple is fearful for their safety.
“We would love to stay (in the area),” Carol Stutte said Friday. “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, with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department, said authorities aren't releasing many details about the fire — which happened Sept. 4 at about 10 p.m.
“It is an arson and we are continuing the investigation,” he said Friday. “There are people of interest in the case,” and authorities, including the state Bomb and Arson Squad, are still conducting interviews.
The Stuttes' home was a complete loss. “There is nothing left,” Carol Stutte said. “They are calling it a black hole,”
The couple, who have been together for more than 16 years, were in Nashville celebrating the five-year anniversary of moving into their Vonore home, the night it was burned to the ground.
Carol Stutte's daughter from a previous marriage would have been at the home at the time, but decided to go with the couple to Nashville.
“She would've been trapped,” Carol Stutte said.
Carol Stutte said she and Laura have been being harassed and threatened, specifically by one neighbor, on and off for about five years.
“The last in-depth threats were several weeks ago,” Carol Stutte said.
The couple tried to ignore the threats, but eventually decided to file a report with the Sheriff's Office.
“We tried to turn the other cheek and overlook it,” Carol Stutte said. “When (the latest threats) finally happened we thought we better go file a police report. (The threats) have really been scaring us for some time.”
Carol Stutte said that, despite the arson, she has been blessed with support from people in the area, who want to help.
Becky Lucas, president of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays 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.”
To read this entire article, click here.