A lesbian couple was found to have faked a hate crime in order to make an insurance claim, a Tennessee jury ruled on Monday.
In 2010, Carol Ann and Laura Stutte of Venore, Tennessee, allegedly spray painted an anti-gay slur on their own garage, burned down their house, and made a claim on their insurance with American National Property and Casualty Company, The Knoxville News Sentinel reported. The couple claimed that the graffiti and fire was a result of a hate crime and blamed their neighbor Janie Millsaps.
The word “queers” had been scrawled across their garage.
The women claimed that Millsaps had threatened them one month before the Sept. 4, 2010, crime.
“Do you know what is better than one dead queer?” the couple accused Millsaps of saying. “Two dead queers.”
Laura Stutte gained sympathy from her town after placing the blame on Millsaps.
“We know who wrote those threats,” Laura said. “Anyone who could go so far as to paint those hateful letters and burn someone else’s house down, they are really disturbed.”
The couple also launched a lawsuit against Millsaps.
(The Stuttes; Photo Credit: Journal Media Group via Knox News)
The insurance company, however, was reportedly wary of the couple's claim. Instead of banking in on the $276,000 the women had claimed, the insurance company took the couple to court.
Following an investigation of Millsaps, both the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation concluded that she had not committed the alleged hate crime. The insurance company even conducted their own investigation using a polygraph on Millsaps.
The jury heard five days of testimony before Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan came to a verdict. The jury also rejected an accusation that the insurance company was attempting to escape paying the claim.
The couple has not been charged in the house arson. Currently, the status of their lawsuit against Millsaps is unclear.
Photo Credit: WBIR-TV via NY Daily News, Wikipedia