Arrests Made in Guerry Vandalism Case
Thursday, May 30, 2019
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
On May 9, the Sewanee Police Department arrested two University students—a 21-year-old woman and 20-year-old male—for the recent vandalism and malicious destruction at Guerry Auditorium. The pair, a senior and junior respectively, confessed to the crime. They were charged with class C felony vandalism valued at $10,000 to $60,000 and class D felony burglary. Both are free after posting $7,500 bonds.
An individual arriving at Guerry Auditorium mid-morning on April 28 to setup for a rehearsal discovered the doors unlocked, chairs tossed in the aisles, an exit light ripped from the wall, the American flag torn down and the pole broken, spray paint disfiguring the speakers and walls, and an abundance of powder residue from the discharge of fire extinguishers.
An individual with an office in Guerry Hall said all was well when he left the building at 10:30 the night before. A size 12 and half-foot print in the powder residue offered one small clue.
“We always look for motive,” said Sewanee Police Chief Marie Ferguson, “but no motive was apparent.”
Nor did the police receive any help from the leads attained in response to the $10,000 reward offered by the University. “The information didn’t pan out,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson attributed “innovative thinking” and teamwork on the part of the officers and investigators in solving the crime. Investigator Jody Bray recently underwent special training which proved “very helpful,” according to Ferguson. She declined to reveal the methods used to avoid jeopardizing future investigations.
Likewise, Ferguson declined to comment on whether drugs and/or alcohol played a role.
Emily Catherine Culp and Connor Peach will stand trial in Franklin County. A court date has been scheduled for July 11 in the Franklin County General Sessions Court.
Twelfth Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Steve Blount said Culp and Peach would be tried as range one standard offenders, individuals with zero to one prior conviction. For individuals in that range, class C felony vandalism carries a prison sentence of three to six years and a fine up to $10,000. The sentence for class D felony burglary is two to four years and a fine up to $5,000.
However, Blount noted, “We have crimes on the books you can’t get probation for. This is a probatable crime.”
Blount also pointed out, “The University is continuing to assess the actual dollar amount of the damage. Depending on the final assessment, there could be a modification or amendment of the charges.”
As to Culp and Peach’s academic standing at the University, University spokesperson Laurie Saxton said, “The University’s internal disciplinary process is still underway. We do not comment while these are ongoing.”
The good news is Sewanee Summer Music Festival events scheduled for Guerry Auditorium will go on as planned, according to Saxton. All repairs will be completed before the festival begins.