One of the two people charged more than a year ago in connection with the 2005 Jordan Mill fire could be in court Monday.
If Frederick Bryant, also known as Michael Coultes, doesn't accept a plea deal offered by the District Attorney's office by this afternoon he will be expected in Superior Court at 9 a.m., according to Columbus Fire and EMS investigator Lt. Darrell Bryant, who is not related to Frederick Bryant.
Bryant, 52, and Paula Coultes, 38, were arrested two years to the day that Columbus experienced one of the largest structure fires in its history. The man and woman were both charged with first-degree arson for setting the fire that destroyed the Cartersville Spinning Mill building at 1250 29th Street.
Coultes as already offered to plead guilty in exchange for a 15 year prison sentence. Darrell Bryant said he wasn't sure if Assistant District Attorney Wesley Lambertus has accepted her plea. A call to Lambertus this morning was not immediately returned.
The 210,000-square-foot structure formerly known as Jordan City Mills was destroyed, with an estimated loss of $2 million to the vacant facility. The mill was originally built in 1906.
Authorities said in 2007 that at the time of their arrest Bryant was serving a five-year prison sentence in Rogers State Prison, Reidsville, and Coultes was serving a two-year sentence in Pulaski State Prison, Pulaski County, after both were sentenced in Muscogee County Superior Court in 2006 for crimes unrelated to the Columbus fire. They were convicted on charges of burglary and criminal damage to property, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections.
Authorities obtained information in mid to late 2007 that led to interviews and charges being filed, despite two years of investigation by arson investigators with the city, assisted by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Bryant and Coultes were described as boyfriend and girlfriend who came through Columbus and visited the mill several times, upsetting vagrants who were staying in the vacant mill building. Vagrants had called police about the pair, but by the time police responded, they would be gone.
Lt. Darrell Bryant told the Ledger-Enquirer in 2007 that the suspects became aggravated with the vagrants and apparently set fire to the structure "out of spite," to get back at the vagrants.
At first, investigators said, authorities considered the possibility that vagrants may have accidentally set the fire. Once they acquired recent information suggesting the suspects might be responsible, they began focusing on that part of the investigation. Their last interviews were conducted Monday out of town.