MIAMI COUNTY — As he gazed up at the ceiling, Richard T. Bryant Jr.’s jaw dropped as the Miami County Common Pleas Court bailiff read their verdict: guilty.
All 12 members of the trial jury found Bryant, 39, of Piqua, guilty of fourth-degree felony arson on Wednesday. Deliberations lasted approximately 25 minutes after closing arguments were made by assistant prosecutor Janna Parker and defense attorney Stephen King.
According to police reports, a witness saw Bryant allegedly setting fire to the garage belonging to his uncle, Larry Bryant, on purpose using lighter fluid around 1 a.m. last December at 825 Boal Ave. in Piqua.
Damage to the siding and roof of the garage was estimated to cost $6,644, according to the property owner’s insurance company.
Testimony included Piqua Police Department Officer Mallory Lash, who interviewed Bryant. According to Lash, Bryant was intoxicated, but consented to be interviewed without counsel present. Lash said Bryant made accusatory statements against his uncle’s wife, Erica Bryant, regarding the health of family members.
Attorney King asked why Lash did not turn over the interview to superior officers and questioned the timing of Lash’s photo evidence. King also noted Bryant’s cooperation with law enforcement throughout the interview process.
Bryant also gave conflicting statements to Piqua police officers Lash and Sean Stein that he had passed out in a parking lot of a church. Bryant told Stein he was passed out for 15 hours and later told Lash he was passed out for three hours.
A forensics expert from the State of Ohio Fire Marshal’s office, Dr. Christa Rajendram, also testified that a liquid accelerator agent, such as charcoal lighter fluid, was found in the soil by the garage and on the gloves Bryant had in his hooded sweatshirt at the time of questioning.
Witness for the defense included a friend of Bryant, whom she saw at her home on Wayne Street around 12:30 p.m. the night of the fire. The witness also said Bryant borrowed her daughter’s bicycle that evening. The bicycle was placed into evidence.
Judge Christopher Gee scheduled Bryant’s sentencing for 2 p.m. Oct. 24. Judge Gee also ordered Bryant to have no contact with the victims and a witness who testified against Bryant. Judge Gee continued Bryant’s own recognizance bond.
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