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Drinking, arguing, then out came the sling blade

WESLEY CHAPEL — After several drinks, Brian Craighead started bragging about his toughness and, one witness said, "how he kills people for a living."

The others sitting outside Lance Fisher's house didn't believe him. So Craighead, 44, went inside Fisher's shed and emerged carrying a 3-foot-long sling blade.

Movie buffs will remember the sling blade from the eponymous Oscar-winning 1996 film starring Billy Bob Thornton. But unlike Thornton's character, Craighead didn't do any damage with the cutting tool, which had a wooden handle and a rusted metal blade.

"He reared it back and was going to swing, but put it down," said Adam Jablonski, who said Craighead threatened him with the blade.

The incident landed Craighead in the Pasco County jail Tuesday on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Fisher had taken Craighead into his home at 3307 Fox Ridge Blvd. several months ago and allowed him to work for his tree service. Craighead had been homeless and washing cars to earn money, Fisher said.

Craighead was sitting at a tiki bar outside the house Tuesday at around 7:45 p.m. when a neighbor came over with two friends. The group drank and talked until Craighead became belligerent and started making threats, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office reported.

Jablonski told Craighead he "wasn't afraid of him." Craighead then retrieved the sling blade, raised it and then put it down, the report said.

A little while later, Craighead approached Jablonski at the bar and called him a profane word. An angry Jablonski threw an empty bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey at Craighead's face. The bottle cut Craighead on the right cheek.

Craighead then took the sling blade back to the shed and returned holding a box cutter. That's when Fisher, the house's owner, emerged.

Fisher said he had to threaten Craighead with an ax to make him put down the knife.

Still bleeding, Craighead then went to a neighbor's home across the street. Paramedics arrived soon afterward to treat Craighead's wound.

When deputies arrived, Craighead tried to blame Jablonski for the incident.

"He tried to press charges against me," Jablonski said. "It all turned back and got him."

After witnesses agreed with Jablonski's version of events, deputies arrested Craighead. He remained in jail Wednesday in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Craighead's criminal record includes more than a dozen arrests, under multiple aliases, on drug and theft charges in Key West, Sarasota, Kissimmee and Tampa.

Although Craighead worked hard for the tree service, Fisher said he knew he was something of a loose cannon.

"It didn't take much to set Brian off," Fisher said. "A time or two before, I've had to go out there and settle him down."

Fisher said he had warned neighbors in the past not to let Craighead drink too much.

"I knew he had a problem with the booze," Fisher said. "I always tell the neighbors, 'Don't get any alcohol in him because he'll get crazy.' "

Nomaan Merchant can be reached at or (727) 869-6244.

Drinking, arguing, then out came the sling blade 06/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 26, 2008 7:47pm]
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