Witness: Man admitted to starting downtown house fire

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Bond was set at $75,000 for a 55-year-old man accused of setting fire to a downtown home and who is also suspected of starting two other fires.

Kenneth Carlton Boone was charged with arson in connection to a Montagu street home fire that happened in 2010. Boone has also been charged with two counts of third-degree arson and one count of solicitation to commit arson.

On Nov. 23, a witness told investigators that Boone, who worked as a carpenter, solicited his cooperation on Dec. 9, 2010 to set fire to a home on 48 Montagu Street. Boone told the witness that after the fire, he would make repairs to the home for a profit.

An affidavit states that Boone picked the witness up around 1 a.m. in Boone's green pickup truck. The witness said Boone then parked the truck a block away from Montagu street and told the witness to "not make loud noise and wake anyone up."

Authorities say Boone told the witness that he was going to "make some work" at the victim's home. Court documents state that Boone left the truck with a white plastic milk container and told the witness to act as a lookout and "whistle" or "call out to him" if he saw or heard the police.

According to investigators, Boone walked off in the direction of Montagu Street and then came back 10 minutes later without the milk container. The witness said that he knew the milk jug contained gas because Boone "smelled like gasoline."

Police say Boone entered the truck and told the witness, "We got to get out of here."

When the witness asked Boone what he did, court documents state that Boone replied again, "We got to get out of here."

The witness told investigators that Boone had secured the "hustle" to repair the fire damage soon after the fire.

According to an affidavit, Boone called the witness to help him with work on the home. The witness said he saw the fire damage to the home was near the rear of the house by the A/C units.

A Charleston Fire Department investigation conducted on the house revealed that the fire started at the side of the house near the rear A/C unit. Fire investigators say gasoline was found in samples taken from the scene.

On Monday afternoon, Charleston Police Chief Gregg Mullen said their investigation into Boone was still in the early stages. According to Mullen, it is a possibility that Boone could have recruited others to help him set fires.

Court records list Boone's address at 5 Glenwood Avenue, which is located near Hampton Park, not far from many suspected arsons. Boone's criminal history includes arrests on drug charges, grand larceny, and domestic violence.

In December 2011, Mayor Joe Riley announced the City of Charleston had doubled the reward offered for anyone who provides useful information to authorities regarding the downtown arson fires. The reward was doubled from $25,000 to $50,000.

According to Charleston Fire Department Spokesman Mark Ruppel, that reward will not be delivered until Boone is convicted of an arson in downtown Charleston.

Police have been investigating more than 55 fires in a half-mile area downtown during the past decade. Those fires had stopped between August 2009 and the fires at the end of the 2011 summer.

Arsons have been investigated at homes, among others, on Cannon, Rutledge, St. Philip, Spring, and Vanderhorst streets.

Most of the fires started on outdoor porches of the homes.

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