ELKTON — A man who allegedly tried to kill one of his relatives and then proceeded to burn down that person’s Elkton-area home in January has entered a “not criminally responsible” plea — also known as an insanity plea — in his attempted murder case.
Elkton-based lawyer Ellis Rollins III verbally entered the NCR plea on behalf of his client, Brandon Michael Reynolds, 42, during a courtroom hearing Monday, after he had filed a related written motion before the proceeding.
In response, Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. ordered that Reynolds be committed to the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup and that state psychiatrists there examine him and submit their findings to the court.
The judge then would base his decision whether to grant the not-criminally-responsible plea on the findings of the state psychiatrists who examine Reynolds, who has been held without bond since his arrest in January.
“Based upon things you told me about this incident, (state psychiatrists) will determine your mental state at the time of this incident,” Rollins explained aloud to Reynolds during the hearing, without detailing what Reynolds had told him.
Because the court-ordered psychiatric evaluations of Reynolds now must be performed, to determine if he could discern the criminality of his alleged actions at the time of the incident, the NCR plea resulted in the postponement of Reynolds’ jury trial, which had been set to start Tuesday and had been scheduled to last two days.
In addition to attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder — which are punishable by up to life in prison and 40 years in prison respectively — Reynolds is charged with first-degree arson, first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and four other offenses, according to Cecil County Circuit Court records.
If the judge decides that the “not criminally responsible” plea is valid, Reynolds still would stand trial and, if acquitted of all charges, the plea would be a moot point.
However, if the jury finds Reynolds guilty of one, some or all the charges, then the jurors would deliberate once again — this time to determine if Reynolds should be held criminally responsible.
If the jury decides that Reynolds should be held criminally responsible, he would face the applicable sentences relating to his convictions.
Should the jury find Reynolds guilty and then decide that he shouldn’t be held criminally responsible, however, Reynolds would be committed to a state psychiatric hospital, where he would remain until psychiatrists conclude that he is well and is no longer a threat to himself or to others — at which time he would be discharged.
According to Maryland State Police and court records, the incident leading to Reynolds’ arrest and the criminal charges against him started when he arrived at about 3:50 p.m. Jan. 3 at 159 Silchester Drive — a home where the grandfather of his son resided. That residence is located in the Surrey Ridge development off of Route 213, north of Elkton.
Reynolds, whom investigators believe was brandishing a knife, assaulted the grandfather during an argument, police said. Shortly thereafter, the victim detected smoke and noticed that the front of the house was engulfed in flames.
Also present in the home at the time of the alleged attack was Reynold’s son, police reported. Everyone was able to safely escape the burning home, according to police.
Shortly after arriving at the scene, MSP troopers and Cecil County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Reynolds, police said. Investigators believe that Reynolds planned the assault and that he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, police added.
According to charging documents made public shortly after the suspect’s arrest, Reynolds confessed to investigators that he had used methamphetamine on the day before the attack.
Reynolds also allegedly attempted to mislead investigators, telling them that he walked to the home from Elkton and that the fire was started accidentally when a lit cigarette fell on a straw welcome mat, before he changed that account, police reported.
In a later interview, according to court records, Reynolds, who was living in the Elkton area at the time, admitted that he drove to the home and poured gasoline on the front porch — accidentally lighting the gas can on fire and, consequently, thwarting his plan to also set fire at the rear of the home.
Instead, Reynolds allegedly ran to the back of the home and confronted the grandfather with a knife, in an attempt to keep him inside the burning home, court records allege.
Reynolds did not know that his son was in the home before lighting the fire, police reported.
More than a dozen police officers and emergency medical personnel responded to the home, as well as firefighters with several area volunteer fire companies who extinguished the blaze and inspected the home afterward.