Phillip Rodger Bennett entered guilty pleas to first-degree arson, first-degree criminal damage to property, two counts of aggravated assault, first-degree burglary, terroristic threats and possession of tools for arson in Superior Court Judge Carey Nelson’s courtroom. He was sentenced to 50 years with 30 to serve
Bennet allegedly was sent over the edge by his neighbor’s grass and went to the neighbor’s home, pouring gasoline into the home and setting it on fire. He was captured by U.S. Marshals in Murphy, N.C., a day later.
According to Cartersville police at the time, 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.
The following day, Bennett 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 at the time. “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.”
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Bennett 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.