A lesbian couple in rural Tennessee returned from a trip to Nashville to find their home burned to the ground and the word "QUEERS" spray-painted 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."The local police and the state arson squad are investigating the fire as a possible hate crime. PFLAG has sent out a call for donations of cash and household items for the women. The Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church is also taking donations.