ELIZABETHTON — A state prisoner who escaped from a work crew in Roan Mountain State Park and burned down a state building on Sept. 28-29 pleaded guilty this week in Carter County Criminal Court to 10 charges stemming from the escape. He was sentenced to serve an additional 14 years in the state prison system.
Brian David Knighton, 35, who was from the Memphis area, pleaded guilty to escape, arson, burglary, car burglary, one count of theft over $10,000, two counts of theft under $500 and three counts of reckless endangerment.
Although Knighton admitted his guilt on all the charges, including the arson, he told Judge Robert Cupp the fire that destroyed a maintenance building in the state park had been an accident.
Knighton was on a work crew in the park for about a month when guards discovered he was missing on the afternoon of Sept. 28. He then entered the maintenance building in order to steal a 2007 Dodge Caravan that was park property. He also stole paint and clothing and broke into a privately owned car.
Knighton was spotted several hours later in the Dodge Caravan at a service station off Interstate 40 in Cookeville by a Tennessee state trooper who took the escapee into custody.
Cupp sentenced Knighton to four years on the escape charge and made the sentence consecutive to his unexpired sentence. Cupp sentenced Knighton to an additional 10 years on the arson charge, which will run consecutive to the escape charge.
The remaining charges will be served concurrently. He received eight years on the burglary charge, four years on the car burglary, 11 months and 29 days on each of the theft under $500 charge, 10 years on the theft over $10,000 charge, and four years on each of the felony reckless endangerment charges.
Knighton is classified as a persistent offender, which means he will be required to serve 45 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.