In a press conference Tuesday morning, Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren announced two men are in custody and says the suspects not only admitted to the crime but revealed their motive behind the alleged sinister act.
Police say sometime between 2-3 AM on May 11th, nine box cutter-type blades were duct taped to the steps and handles of the slides. They were later found by a mother just as her child was about to hop on the equipment. [Read: Razors were placed at Lakebottom Park to cause harm]
Eighteen-year-old Gary Bryan, from Columbus, and 21-year-old Derek Fullum, from Phenix City, have both been charged. Bryan was arrested at his home Monday night and Fullum was taken into custody early Tuesday morning.
Derek Fullum is currently stationed at Fort Benning as a mechanic with the U.S. Army Reserves.
According to Chief Boren, one of the department's investigators received new information pertaining to the case from one of her informants, leading police to the suspects.
The chief says they confessed to the crime in interviews with investigators, claiming it was all a practical joke and that they planted the blades just to see what would happen.
Detectives say the blades were strategically placed on the playground, hidden on handles and monkey bars and placed in the slides so that if a child slid down one, they'd be seriously injured.
"They say that they did not target the children even though they put these razor blades on playground equipment that was played with by children. They classified it as a party prank. They also told us about other times they had been to the park and vandalized some of the areas. One individual made a statement that they wanted to see how it would change lives of people," the chief said during Tuesday morning's press conference at police headquarters.
"We felt like at the time, that it was probably someone who would consider this a prank. We considered it a significant incident that had taken place in our community. It did raise public alarm and that is the reason we are standing here today because I wanted to get the information out as soon as possible," Boren added.
"That is not a prank. I don't believe in pranks like that. When it involves kids, it's a very serious issue. I don't think it's funny and I hope they get the max," said Peter Jessie, a parent who takes his 1-year-old daughter to play at the park on a regular basis.
"I think they need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent because that's endangerment, not only for just the kids but the parents out here trying to protect their kids from any predator," added Chantale High, another concerned parent WTVM caught up with at Lakebottom Park Tuesday with her 9-month-old daughter.
Bryan and Fullum are both charged with Criminal Damage to Property in the 1st Degree and if convicted, Boren says they face a one to ten year sentence behind bars.
They pleaded not guilty and waived their preliminary hearings Wednesday afternoon. A judge granted them each a $10,000 bond and bound their cases over to Muscogee County Superior Court.
In court, detectives revealed the duo is also behind several arsons in Columbus.
Columbus Fire Marshal, Chief Thomas Streeter, tells WTVM the duo admitted to intentionally setting fires in the Lakebottom area during their police interviews and confessions to the razor blade scare.
In April, a dumpster was set on fire as well as a vacant house on 17th Avenue. Officials say the house was being renovated at the time and is a total loss.
Streeter says arson warrants will be signed Thursday for Fullum and Bryan, charging them with arson in the 1st degree, arson in the 3rd degree and conspiracy to commit arson.
Derek Fullum's best friend and roommate asked News Leader 9 to conceal his identity but defended him: "That's not his character to do anything like that in my opinion. It's really just a shock to me. I can't believe he do something like that."
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