Two men accused of taping razor blades to a playground equipment at Lakebottom Park in May 2010 pleaded guilty today and were sentenced to seven years in prison.
Gary L. Bryan, 18, and Derrick K. Fullum, 24, both pleaded guilty to first-degree arson and reckless conduct in two unrelated cases. Muscogee County Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen sentenced both to seven years’ incarceration, followed by four years’ probation.
The men admitted to taping razor blades on playground equipment at the north end of the park on May 11, 2010. A 2-year-old boy found one of the blades that morning and told his mother, who in turn told a nearby Columbus police officer.
No one was hurt by the blades.
In an unrelated case, both men admitted to also setting a fire at a vacant house at 1429 17th St. on April 9, 2010.
“I’m pretty sure a lot of people are wondering why I did it,” Fullum said. “I wanted some attention. But basically, we were being stupid. I realize that’s retarded. That’s pretty much it. I’m sorry.”
Both men faced one to 20 years in prison for the arson conviction and 12 months’ for the reckless conduct, which was a reduction from the original, greater charge of first-degree criminal damage to property.
According to Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly, the 17th Street arson happened early April 9, 2010. The men took couch cushions, doused them with kerosene, took them to the back of the home and set them ablaze. They then watched from a nearby spot as firefighters arrived and began battling the fire.
One of the fire engines was damaged by heat from the blaze, Kelly added.
The discovery of razor blades at Lakebottom Park happened about a month later. Once police learned that nine blades were Duct taped to the playground equipment, the area was closed down. City employees swept the area and all city parks with metal detectors that day, though no blades at any other site were found.
A tip in September led investigators to Bryan and Fullum. Both admitted to the arson and the razor blades, Kelly said.
“They were bored,” Kelly added. “They did it as a prank.”
Kelly recommended 10 years in prison for both, followed by 10 years’ probation. Assistant public defender Ray Lakes, who represents Fullum, asked for five years instead.
“He wants to become a youth pastor,” Lakes added.
Defense attorney Michael Garner, who represents Bryan, said both men appear childlike on a videotaped police interview. Additionally, Bryan has a learning disability, Garner said.
Allen said he understands that youth can be prone to stupidity. He then issued his sentence.
The pair also face first-degree arson and third-degree burglary charges in Alabama in connection with a April 17 fire at the Garner Chapel CME Church, 10 Old Opelika Road, according to Phenix City police Lt. George Staudinger. That case remains pending.