By: Laura-Jane Hatcher & Kevin Karel (WRGA News)UPDATE: 2:40 PM THURSDAY: Suspected arsonist Phillip Rodgers Bennett is being extradited to Cartersville from Murphy, North Carolina late Thursday afternoon following his capture there earlier by federal agents. Cartersville police say Bennett will face nearly a dozen charges upon his arrival including Arson and two counts of Aggravated Assault.
UPDATE 12:15 PM THURSDAY: Cartersville Police report fugitive Phillip Rodger Bennett has turned himself in to federal agents in Murphy, North Carolina following about 24 hours on the run.
Bennett is suspected of arson and aggravated assault in Cartersville Wednesday afternoon. He has spent all but eight years of his life behind bars in Georgia prisons since 1986 on the strength of several convictions including voluntary manslaughter.
Further details about suspected arsonist Phillip Rodger Bennett’s criminal history are surfacing, as police believe the convicted felon has left the state in his attempts to avoid capture.
Investigators have charged Bennett with several felonies in connection with a residential fire in Cartersville Wednesday afternoon where they say Bennett threw a brick and a gas can into his neighbor’s home before lighting the fuel on fire. Cartersville Police Captain Mark Camp said late Thursday morning that Bennett was incarcerated in a Georgia Prison until about three years ago, and based on testimony from his girlfriend, officers know Bennett was making ominous plans;
"He served prison time...he was released in 2010...he had served some time for voluntary manslaughter. Based on some comments to his girlfriend yesterday that he was allegedly asking her to take care of his dog and his mom and so we had reason to believe also that his girlfriend stated that he had become more violent lately."
According to the Georgia Department of Corrections database Bennett was convicted of Aggravated Assault and Voluntary Manslaughter for an incident in Cobb County in 1985 while also being convicted of Aggravated Assault in Mitchell County in 1993. Bennett was jailed from 1986 until 2000 and was then imprisoned again from 2005 until his most recent release in February of 2010.
Bennett and his neighbor were involved in a case of Simple Battery in Cartersville earlier this month in which police were called but no arrests were made.
UPDATE 11:15 AM THURSDAY: Cartersville police investigators now believe fugitive and suspected arsonist Phillip Rodger Bennett has possibly fled the state.
Captain Mark Camp says Bennett, age 58, is now being pursued by federal agents in addition to Cartersville Police and other state law enforcement agencies. He is a convicted felon and served a decade in the Georgia State Prison System for voluntary manslaughter.
He is considered armed and dangerous.
Cartersville Police are on the look-out for an armed and dangerous man they say tried to set his neighbor’s home ablaze.
According to Cartersville authorities, an ongoing feud between 58-year-old Phillip Rodger Bennett and his Boatner Ave. neighbor came to a head Wednesday afternoon over the neighbor’s un-mown lawn. The victim claims Bennett broke out a window, poured gasoline into the home then set the residence on fire.
Thankfully, the neighbor and his 3-year-old child were able to make it out without injury.
Cartersville police continue to look for Bennett, who, because of his criminal history, should be considered armed and dangerous.
Bennett was last seen driving a dark red or maroon 1997 Ford Ranger Pickup bearing the Georgia tag BLP6438.
Anyone with any information about Bennett is asked to dial 9-1-1 immediately.