Fire and explosion at UNC’s Davie Poplar
An Orange County grand jury indicted a man this week on charges from a November fire that seriously burned a UNC professor on the Chapel Hill campus.
Joshua Daniel Edwards, 25, was charged with six felony counts of malicious use of explosives to inflict injury, malicious use of explosives to damage property, assembling a weapon of mass destruction, setting fire to grass or grassland, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and filing a false police report.
Edwards is accused of setting fire to a backpack and a guitar beside UNC’s landmark Davie Poplar on Nov. 2 and walking away. UNC Professor Dan Reichart saw the fire and attempted to extinguish it, but a camping fuel canister inside the backpack exploded, burning his arms and face.
The fire scorched the Davie Poplar, but the tree survived.
Edwards also is accused of telling UNC police about another device in his car in Carrboro. The threat forced Carrboro police to evacuate the downtown area for several hours, but no device was found, police said.
The grand jury’s indictment means Edwards was formally charged or accused of those crimes.
Edwards was released on bail in December to the custody of his parents, who live in Davidson County, and is seeking mental health treatment.
Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman said Edwards, if convicted of the most serious charges, would serve a mandatory prison sentence of over three years. If convicted of all the charges, he said, Edwards could serve up to 10 years.
Edwards’ next hearing could tentatively be scheduled for March, Nieman said.