Alleged arsonist arrested; suspect has history of violence
by By Jessica Loeding, jessica.loeding@daily-tribune.com
May 17, 2013 | 4336 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Boatner Ave. Fire
A fire on Boatner Avenue on Wednesday afternoon is being investigated as an arson. Cartersville police said Wednesday that an ongoing dispute between the homeowner and a neighbor led the suspect to pour gasoline into the house and set the blaze. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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A man allegedly sent over the edge by his neighbor’s grass has a history of violent behavior.

Phillip Rodger Bennett, 58, is accused of torching his neighbor’s home on Boatner Avenue on Wednesday afternoon by pouring gasoline into the home and setting it on fire. He was captured by U.S. Marshals in Murphy, N.C., about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

Cartersville Police Department Capt. Mark Camp said the department had reached out to the Bartow-Cartersville Drug Task Force after Bennett fled Wednesday.

“We were requested to provide assistance in the apprehension of a fugitive because of the resources we have access to,” DTF Commander Capt. Mark Mayton said Thursday, declining to comment further on the case.

Camp said in an email U.S. Marshals were able to make phone contact with Bennett and negotiate his surrender. Bennett signed a waiver of extradition in North Carolina and was transported back to Cartersville about 4 p.m.

“I do not know when he will have a first appearance hearing at this time. I also do not know if any additional charges are pending right now,” Camp said in a final email to media Thursday evening.

Bennett is charged with arson, two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of criminal damage to property, damaging public utilities, cruelty to children, second-degree burglary, reckless conduct, criminal trespass, terroristic threats and possession of tools in the commission of a crime.

According to a Cartersville police report, Bennett confronted his neighbor, Marty Corbitt, on May 7 concerning the height of Corbitt’s grass.

Corbitt told police that Bennett had “slapped him twice in the face, unprovoked.” Bennett denied physical contact, saying the two had exchanged words over the grass.

Then, on Wednesday, Bennett allegedly confronted Corbitt again about the grass. According to an incident report, Bennett told Corbitt he’d kill him if Corbitt called the police again.

While speaking with 911, Corbitt said Bennett left, but returned within minutes armed with gasoline and a lighter.

“I’m still on the phone with them, [Bennett] walks back up with two gas cans, walks right up to my kitchen door and smashes the window of the door with the gas can,” Corbitt told The Daily Tribune News on Wednesday. “It only broke one pane, so he grabbed a brick and threw it through the window. … Then he stuck his gas can in the window and started pouring. I ran back, grabbed my daughter, and as soon as I grabbed her, I looked down the hallway and he’s lighting it as he’s still pouring it. The whole house just instantly [went up] in flames. I ran out the back door and cleared this [roughly 4-foot] fence in one leap.”

Bennett’s encounter this week is not his first with violence or the law.

The Georgia Department of Corrections lists Bennett as having served 14 years for voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. He spent time in Autry State Prison in Mitchell County, a facility for medium security inmates unable to be placed in general population.

Cobb County Clerk of Superior Court’s Office said Bennett had originally faced a murder charge but it was lowered to voluntary manslaughter.

He went back to prison in June 2005 for aggravated assault with a knife in Bartow County, the Cobb County Clerk of Superior Court’s office said. He was released in February 2010.

Information on the manslaughter case was not available Thursday, and calls to the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office concerning the case in 2005 were not returned at press time.