Justice Delayed…

update: I have made it easy to send a free fax to American National with the click of a button. Click here or on the fax number below.

another update: you can donate to purchase a replacement for the stolen insulin pump here.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” – William E. Gladstone

Carol and Laura Stutte

That quote kind of sums up a story that has surfaced here in East Tennessee. Today, Rose Kennedy of the Metro Pulse reports that the attorney of Carol and Laura Stutte, Margaret Held, filed a lawsuit today on behalf of her clients against Janice Millsaps “…because the insurance company won’t.”

If the name Laura and Carol Ann Stutte rings a bell, it should. This was the lesbian couple that returned home from celebrating their anniversary in Nashville over Labor Day to find that their Vonore home had been burned to the ground. Their detached garage was newly decorated with two foot letters announcing, “QUEER”.

From this tragedy there was an outpouring of support from caring groups and individuals from all over the world. Furnishings, clothing, household items, and most importantly money was donated to this family that had lost everything in a fire seemingly caused by a hateful homophobe.

It’s been five months. Where are the Stuttes now?

Carol Ann and Laura were staying with friends when the news and blogosphere lit up with their story. In response to all this attention, it is my personal belief, their insurance company, American National Property and Casualty, immediately placed them in a temporary furnished home. However, soon after, when the attention to the story had died down – three weeks, in fact – the insurance company told them to find another place to live.

I spoke personally with Carol Ann who relayed the conversation with the insurance representative. When told they have to find their own place Carol Ann explained they had nowhere to go. The insurance company suggested they move back to their home. Surprised, she reminded the representative their house had burned to the ground. The response was shocking. It wasn’t their problem.

Who do you think has the resources to last longer?

Like many homeowners, Carol Ann and Laura had opted for additional coverage in case of total loss.  This additional coverage would provide for housing as well as living expenses until the claim was settled. Five months later and not a single penny has been disbursed.

Imagine, if you will, how hard it is for some to pay their mortgage from month to month. Now imagine, that not only do you have to pay a mortgage and insurance on a home that no longer exists, but you have to pay for an additional place to live. Why? If they default on their mortgage, their insurance coverage could be canceled. The the insurance company would be off the hook.

In a telephone conversation, the Stuttes confessed that if it hadn’t been for the donations they would not have survived very long. In fact, they said they had been living off the donations from various groups as well as the $11,000 check from the East Tennessee Equality Council for the last few months and it has about run out. They admit having to stick to a very tight budget.

The FBI has named no suspect?

According to a press release from the Stutte’s attorney, Margaret Held, they are suing their primary suspect in civil court because they have run out of options. The insurance company will not talk to them except through an attorney, the FBI, to my knowledge, has interviewed no one but the Stuttes, separately, in a 4-5 hour deposition. It seems they’ve been left to fend for themselves.

Their primary suspect (when I say suspect, I mean according to the Stuttes, not the authorities) is an older neighbor named Janice Millsaps. What is the most astounding fact in this case is that the neighbor had threatened to burn down their home on at least six documented occasions. The neighbor also told them, “…the only thing better than one dead queer was two dead queers.”

“Queers”? Who uses that word these days? We’ll the arsonist for one. What about the rest of us? If you were born after the mid 1960s, chances are you have never used the word “queer” as an epithet and it has never been a part of your vernacular. You might use “gay”, “lesbo”,”homo”, “fag”, “dyke”, or some other epithet, but not “queer”. So here we have a woman, reported to be in her 50s, that likes to use the word “queer”, has threatened to burn down the victims’ home, and likes the idea of a dead “queer”.

The Metro Pulse also reports:

That and the other 24 general allegations in the complaint create a stark summation of three people being systematically bullied:

  • “On several occasions, Ms. Millsaps threatened to poison the Stuttes’ dogs…. and one of the Stuttes’ dogs subsequently died, apparently from being poisoned.”
  • “Ms. Millsaps on several occasions came onto the Stuttes’ property without permission, entering their home when they weren’t home, and peering in their windows as the Stuttes watched TV at night.”
  • “Ms. Millsaps has repeatedly threatened the lives of the Stuttes, making statements such as, ‘there’s bodies in these hills that no one will ever find,’… [and] if she killed the Stuttes, saying that the community ‘takes care of things the old-fashioned way, the Millsaps way.’”

What now?

It is understandable that a criminal investigation can take some time. From people I have spoken with, it also seems common for an insurance company to take up to two years to settled a claim such as a fire with total loss.

What is unacceptable is the FBI is keeping the Stuttes in the dark. What is even more outrageous is that the insurance company will not pay a dime or help the couple with their expenses. Some may ask why they don’t sue the insurance company. They can. However, if they do, the insurance company will immediately request of a judge to declare they have no liability for payment of damages. The Stuttes would then have to wait for a final judgement from a case that could take years before they realized a penny.

If you want to help the Stutte Family, why not start with putting some pressure on their insurance company? You can call, write, fax, email, or visit American National Property and Casualty using the following information:

American National Property and Casualty
1949 E Sunshine St # 3-103
Springfield, MO 65899-0002

Phone: (417) 887-0220
Fax: (417) 887-1801
Email: (email form)

On this Google Maps business page, links are provided to upload photos or rate the business. I’ve taken the liberty of uploading a photo and rating the business. However, the photo of the Stuttes in front of their burned home was rejected by Google after review.

If you do communicate with American National Property and Casualty, let them know that you are outraged that they would hold a family hostage like this. I’m going to tell them that I am going to do everything in my power to make sure they never get a new customer in Tennessee again, unless they step up to the plate.

I would also ask that whether your gay or straight if you have a policy with American National Property and Casualty that you start looking for quotes with other companies. If you leave American National Property and Casualty let them know why.

Please spread this story to as many of your contacts that you can. Seemingly, the only way to hurt a big company like American National Property Casualty is with public pressure. The Stutte family and others in similar situations can’t make a difference on their own. It is only when the public demands justice that big companies listen.

14 thoughts on “Justice Delayed…

  1. This is sickening. It makes me angry at the FBI for doing nothing, the local Police for doing nothing… If this woman can get away with it, I would tell the FBI since they have no plans on pursuing this, then they would have no plans to persue them when they burn the Millsaps place down.. If the FBI say they would go to jail if they did that, then I would tell the FBI to get off their Big Fat Duffs and and do something about it. I would sue every law enforcement agency that was within jurisdiction, and the insurance company, the Millsaps, and The City and State Government. I would also write a plea to the President of the United States about how This city still facilitates underhanded methods of justice.. what will be next, hanging black people?

  2. This sent chills down my spine. I lived only five mins from them and I am also a lesbian. I have children from when I was younger and it scares me to think of how crazy people are. I believe in my heart that one day the world will understand and except us because we are good people but will it be to late? I have not faced alot of pred. in this area but I have some and to think I am not out screaming I am gay. When will people change? Oh to the first comment, hanging black people, yes in this area that is the norm in some peoples mine. There are alot of back woods rednecks, not everyone, but there are alot. I have mixed kids and have went for a walk and had people just getting out of church yell out nigg.r lover at me.

  3. Thanks for this post! I sent an email to their insurance company urging them to reimburse the Stuttes for their losses & costs. Wanted to point out that a huge number of young people have actually reclaimed the word “queer.” Almost every single gay/trans/bi person I went to college with earlier this decade described and continue to proudly describe themselves as queer, partly because its ambiguity can encompass being any variety of homo/bi/pansexual, transgendered, or genderqueer identity. So it’s no longer just a slur–although clearly the Stutte’s neighbor used it as one.

  4. Labels aside (homo/hetero, etc.), I believe this is a story about lower-versus-higher consciousness. In the wake of such a senseless act, the Stuttes have demonstrated an all-too-often absent societal perspective. I am encouraged and gladdened to hear of their desire to see their former neighbor held accountable, yet not necessarily villified (my words). This attitude ultimately fosters non-violence, reconciliation, and forgiveness, which leads to the best type of healing. I am somehow not amazed that Millsaps (or millions of others with this mindset) was capable of such an act. I believe that there will be a day, either sooner or later, that the full import of what she’s done will become clear to her, and I do not envy her the pain she will experience on that day. The far-reaching effects of her act of violence will cause her even more alienation, separation, and pain which is not so easily soothed. Let us direct our energies to supporting the Stuttes and holding the insurance company to their word (i.e. contract). Let us resist the urge to either actively or passively shout for revenge, and instead, shout for support, community, and higher consciousness. I am deeply sorry that the Stuttes have had to bear this insult, but it was not just a physical fire they experienced. This was a tempering fire that strengthens the steel and the resolve. This fire has brought together several communities of often vastly differing values and shown us the ultimate denominator, the ultimate label. We are, all of us, HUMAN. Much love to the Stuttes, and yes, much love to Janice Millsaps, who is ultimately in most need…

  5. I wonder if the ACLU would be helpful? The hate crime puts this in their arena and the clout they hold as a recognized name would garner some negative attention and pressure on the insurance company.

    I will contact the insurance company and let them know they have lost my business since I really am shopping around for home insurance!

  6. My partner and I have a fantastic homeowners and car insurance agent. His name is Mansour Hasan, and he is with State Farm Insurance. When I changed from Farmers Insurance Group after 20 years, Mansour came out to our house, as I requested, sat at the table and we discussed everything that was on our minds. We got better coverage at a better price! My partner was pleased too, and he isn’t easily pleased when it comes to stuff like this! LOL

  7. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE start a petition! You have so much information, and a petition can really add some traction to the Suttes’ tragic story and help. All of us on Facebook will sign, post, and share–hopefully sending the petition across even 10% of the 350,000,000 Facebook users. Here’s a link for creating a petition on change.org/gay:

    http://www.change.org/how-to-start-a-petition

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