Williamsburg man guilty of blowing up apartment in botched suicide

WILLIAMSBURG — A Williamsburg man convicted of several felonies Friday intended to kill himself when he released flammable gases into the basement storage room of a Merrimac Trail apartment building.

Instead, he came near to killing three people sleeping in the apartment abutting the storage room when it blew up the morning of March 25.

Robert Allen Bull, 37, pleaded guilty Friday to one felony count each of unlawful wounding and destruction of property in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

Circuit Court Judge Samuel Powell found Bull guilty of both charges and of one felony count of receiving stolen goods from a separate incident. In total, Bull faces 30 years behind bars and $5,000 in fines when sentenced Dec. 9.

The charges stemmed from an early morning explosion at the Parkway Apartment Complex off Merrimac Trail.

Bull was injured when propane gas exploded around 6:30 a.m. inside a maintenance room at the complex, blowing out the wall to an adjacent apartment and starting a two-alarm fire that severely injured the father of a family of three who was asleep when the incident occurred.

Bull was found by police outside the storage room — used by maintenance crews to store equipment — severely burned but alive.

When Williamsburg firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke billowing from the ground level of one of the apartment buildings. It took about an hour to control the blaze. Two buildings were damaged and evacuated, and at least 25 people were displaced.

Commonwealth's Attorney Nate Green said the victim received severe burns including "extensive damage to his legs" that forced him to retire early from a career in the military "because he is no longer able to complete his duties."

The receiving stolen goods conviction stems from an incident in which Bull broke into another apartment at the same complex on March 20. The man who lived in the unit had recently died, but when the family came to gather the man's things, a collection of antique coins was missing.

The sale of those coins to a Newport News pawn shop was traced to Bull, who was not arrested until following the explosion.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World