A lesbian couple in Venore, Tennessee, burned down their own house–and then blamed it on their neighbor committing a “hate crime,” in order to collect a $276,000 insurance payout, a court recently decided.
Carol Ann and Laura Jean Stutte reduced their home to rubble back in September 2010, after writing the homophobic slur, “Queers” on the side of the house.
The couple described it to police as a likely hate crime–and in subsequent interviews with local media, they blamed it on their neighbor, Janice Millsaps.
They claimed that, a month before the fire, Millsaps had said, “Do you know what is better than one dead queer? Two dead queers.” And they claimed that Millsaps had repeatedly threatened their lives and even threatened to burn down their house.
Millsaps was investigated by both the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, but never charged. The Stuttes, however, filed a lawsuit against Millsaps, the status of which is unclear at this point.
The Stuttes’ ruse soon fell apart–when the insurance company, American National Property and Casualty Company, launched their own investigation into the cause of the fire. It became clear that the arson of the Stuttes’ house was part of an insurance scam, and not the work of a homophobic neighbor.
Now, a federal jury has now ruled in favor of American National Property and Casualty Company–saying that, because the Stuttes torched their own house, the insurance company doesn’t have to give them a penny.
The Stuttes have not been charged criminally in the arson of their house.