VONORE, Tenn. – The company that insured a lesbian couple’s home claims the women set a fire that destroyed it.
Carole Ann Stutte and Jean Stutte of Vonore filed a lawsuit in February, claiming a former neighbor was responsible for the September 2010 fire. The suit claims Janice Millsaps caused the blaze and seeks $880,000 for the loss of the home and the value of the property plus pain and suffering.
On May 13, the American National Property and Casualty Company filed a federal lawsuit against the Stuttes, claiming the couple started the fire that consumed their own home, according to The Daily Times.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has not filed any criminal charges in relation to the fire.
The Stuttes said they received threats shortly before the fire and said a derogatory reference to homosexuals was spray-painted on their garage. They were out of town when they received a call that their home was on fire.
The Stuttes had been together for more than 16 years before the fire and moved to their rural home in Monroe County about five years before it occurred.
Carol Stutte said she thought most people in the community didn’t know that they were gay, but said the neighbor had made repeated threats over the years. The Stuttes reported her to the sheriff after they claim she threatened to kill them and burn down their house.
Margaret Held, the attorney representing the Stuttes in their lawsuit against former neighbor Janice Millsaps, says the couple have 20 days from when the lawsuit against them was filed to respond.
The insurance company has denied the Stuttes’ damage claim.
“The Stuttes are owed $264,000 by ANPAC for the loss of their home,” Held said. “That’s how much the property was insured for.”
Millsaps’ attorney, Lewis Kinnard, said he assumes investigators found nothing implicating his client.
“She was never charged by the TBI, FBI or arson investigators, all of which were involved with this,” Kinnard said.
Kinnard said the outcome of the insurer’s lawsuit against the couple might determine the suit against his client by the Stuttes.