Phillip Rodger Bennett, 58, was taken into custody by Cartersville police from U.S. Marshals at 3:30 p.m. Thursday after allegations he set fire to a Boatner Avenue home after a confrontation with the resident over the height of the resident’s grass.
Authorities called Bartow County EMS due to severe burns to Bennett’s hands and arms when he was brought in.
“He was examined by EMT’s at our book-in facility. The burns were too severe to be treated locally, so Bennett was transported to Grady Hospital for treatment,” Cartersville Police Department Capt. Mark Camp said in an email to media.
Bennett was released Friday afternoon and transported to the Bartow County Jail, where he 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.
Because two people were inside the home when Bennett allegedly lit a stream of gasoline, Camp said the assault charges carry extra weight.
“Some have asked why he was not charged with intent to murder. The intent to murder is actually included in aggravated assault, and he has two counts of that,” Camp said.
Bennett has a history of violence.
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 Thursday that Bennett had originally faced a murder charge but it was lowered to voluntary manslaughter.
On Friday, the clerk’s office said the file on Bennett was missing from the archives and information on how he killed the victim was not available.
A call to the attorney who represented Bennett eight years ago was not returned Friday evening. Bennett went back to prison in June 2005 for aggravated assault with a knife in Bartow County.
In that case, Bennett stabbed a man in the side with a pocketknife after the victim tried to stop Bennett who had tried to steal liquor and took a beer from the patron, according to the incident report. Occurring in February 2005 at the now-closed The Alley on West Avenue, Bennett was charged with aggravated battery, three counts of aggravated assault, possession of a knife while committing a crime and two counts of theft by taking.
He was released from prison in February 2010.