Key West couple attacked gay tourists off Wisteria Island, deputies say

Man slashed at victims with knife, damaging small boat, officials say

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor

Christopher Thomas John Yarema (right) and Stephanie Lynn Burnham are accused of attacking two men.

WISTERIA ISLAND, Fla. - A Key West couple was arrested Saturday after deputies said they attacked a pair of gay tourists who were boating off Wisteria Island.

Christopher Thomas John Yarema, 43, faces charges of aggravated assault and causing property damage, while Stephanie Lynn Burnham, 35, faces charges of battery and causing property damage.

Adam Linhardt, a spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, said two gay men from Hollywood, California, had rented a large boat with an inflatable dinghy Saturday to explore the waters off Wisteria Island. Around 4:30 p.m., as the men prepared to leave, Yarema and Burnham approached the couple's dinghy on a skiff and began yelling anti-gay slurs and other expletives, Linhardt said.

According to the arrest report, the couple appeared to be upset because of the men was wearing a Speedo-style swimsuit.

One of them shouted "Hey, Mr. Speedo [expletive], get the [expletive] off our island," the report said.

"You have five seconds to get off, or I will kill you," Burnham told the men, according to the report.

Before the men could leave, Yarema punched one of them in the face and broke his sunglasses, Linhardt said. Burnham struck the same man on the head with a boat oar, Linhardt said.

The man pushed Burnham away, enraging Yarema, according to deputies. 

“You knocked down my wife. I’m going to kill you,” Yarema reportedly told the victim. Yarema then pulled out a knife and began slashing at the tourists, Linhardt said. At one point, Yarema punctured the tourists' inflatable dinghy with the knife, deputies said.

The tourists managed to escape to their larger rental boat before the dinghy deflated and radioed the U.S. Coast Guard for help, Linhardt said.

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