Police charge two students with felony vandalism at University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee

Police charge two students with felony vandalism at University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee

May 23rd, 2019 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

In this 2017 staff file photo, a sign for the university is seen on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter

*This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. on May, 26, 2019, to reflect a response from Emily Culp's lawyer, Lee Davis, and an additional response on the two students' status from the University of the South.

Emily Culp

Emily Culp

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Sewanee police at the University of the South in Franklin County, Tennessee, have charged two students with felony vandalism after they allegedly trashed Guerry Auditorium in late April, causing more than $10,000 in damage.

Emily Culp, a senior at the university, and Connor Peach, a junior, are each charged with vandalism $10,0000-$60,000 and burglary in connection with destruction done April 27 and 28, according to 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney Steve Blount. Both are now free after posting $7,500 bonds. The pair had been the subject of a $10,000 offered by the Sewanee Police Department for information leading to an arrest.

The vandalism charge is a class C felony, Blount said. A class C felony, upon conviction, carries a sentence of between three and six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Sewanee police identified and arrested Culp and Peach and said both confessed to causing the damage, according to a statement from the university, which did not name the students. Sewanee officials didn't describe the damage but the Sewanee Messenger weekly newspaper in the university's hometown reported that damage included broken furniture, damaged equipment, spray paint damage to walls and other items and damage from a fire extinguisher that had been sprayed around much of the auditorium.

"The auditorium was open for all commencement ceremonies and we expect it to be available for the Sewanee Summer Music Festival as well, university spokesman Parker Oliver said via email. "This remains an open matter so we cannot provide many more details right now."

Connor Peach

Connor Peach

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Blount said university officials are still assessing the dollar amount of damage.

"Based on that assessment, the charges could be modified later," Blount said. According to state law, a vandalism case in which the value of damage exceeds $60,000 is a class B felony, punishable by eight to 12 years in prison.

Asked about Culp's and Peache's status a the school and whether Culp will be allowed to graduate, if she met requirements, Oliver said, "Our internal discinplinary process is still underway. We do not comment as these are underway."

Culp's attorney, Chattanooga lawyer Lee Davis, issued a statement concerning the charges.

"Emily Culp is mortified by her own behavior. She met with Sewanee administrators last week and detailed her own involvement in what started out as senseless act and ended in vandalism. She accepted responsibility at Sewanee and fully acknowledges her own wrongdoing," Davis states.

"[B]efore anyone judges Emily, they should know that she is heartbroken at damaging the school she loves," Davis states. "Emily, like most people, is better than the worst thing she ever did. And, without minimizing the seriousness of vandalism, she made extremely poor decisions after drinking too much the week before graduation. Emily did not graduate and has been suspended indefinitely. She will make restitution for her misdeeds and she asks forgiveness from those she has disappointed and the college she has hurt. This entire episode is not consistent with her character or Emily's history at Sewanee."

Culp and Peach, meanwhile, face tentative court appearances in Franklin County General Sessions Court on July 11 in Winchester, Blount said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

 

 

 


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