Deputies announce arrest in 1996 arson at Macedonia High School

Investigators believe others were involved in crime, ask for public’s help

VIDEO: Deputies announce arrest in 1996 arson at Macedonia High School

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCSC) - Berkeley County’s sheriff says a man who was a junior at Macedonia High School has been charged in the burning of the school 23 years after the night it burned down.

Daniel Scott Harris, 40, is charged with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary, Sheriff Duane Lewis said. Harris was arrested Tuesday night.

Macedonia High School burned to the ground on Aug. 4, 1996. Investigators with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division ruled the fire arson. Lewis said Harris was 17 years old at the time of the fire.

Sheriff Duane Lewis announced the arrest at a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Moncks Corner.

Lewis said the arrest came after the discovery of a piece of evidence investigators weren’t initially aware they had. The fingerprint, he said, was in “a unique place that would have indicated involvement in this crime.”

An affidavit states the fingerprint was located on a fire extinguisher that was used in the school’s library and media center to damage electronic equipment before the fire was set.

Lewis said he asked his team to reopen the case two years ago and that investigators had been working on the case since. Lewis made the announcement of Harris’s arrest while accompanied by former teachers and students at the school.

The sheriff said he believes the incident began as a vandalism but then led to some materials inside the school being set on fire.

Lewis said his agency worked with SLED in the investigation. But he said others may still be involved.

“But we believe based on the evidence that the scene, there’s additional suspects out there that are still on the loose,” Lewis said. “If you know something about this individual, if you know something about who his friends were at the time, and who he was hanging around with or if you’ve heard that they were at the school that at the time with a fire, please call us.”

Lewis said a judge set a $20,000 personal recognizance bond for Harris, who was expected to be released later Wednesday.

RAW VIDEO: Berkeley County sheriff announces arrest in 23-year-old arson

Sheriff: School was ‘center point’ of community

A fire on the night of Aug. 4, 1996, destroyed Macedonia High School in Berkeley County. The school had been shut down and merged with two other schools into Timberland High School, which opened that fall.
A fire on the night of Aug. 4, 1996, destroyed Macedonia High School in Berkeley County. The school had been shut down and merged with two other schools into Timberland High School, which opened that fall. (Source: Berkeley County Sheriff's Office)

“The school was the center point of the Macedonia, St. Stephen, the whole general area,” Lewis said. “This school represented the community. It was where everything happened and the people in Macedonia had a love for this school. And to see it totally destroyed on that August 4th night, it really devastated a lot of people.”

Educators who joined Lewis at the news conference were emotional about the arrest in the destruction of the beloved building.

Berkeley County School Board Chair Sally Wofford said the fire was a terrible loss of a beautiful historic building.

“Magnificent hardwood floors, the vaulted ceilings, when I close my eyes and think about school, I think about those floors, and those ceilings, and all the times that we’re headed there,” she said. “I pray this brings closure to a lot of people.”

The principal of the former school, Janie Langley, joined fellow educators in thanking law enforcement for their work in the investigation.

“It was an amazing high school and the love that community put into it...and then for our school to be burned, it broke our hearts,” she said. “And I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it here with all of the law enforcement That worked on this case. You have truly restored I hope and pray and I’m sure some peace to the people of the Macedonia community.”

Berkeley School District Superintendent Dr. Eddie Ingram said news of an arrest serves as a motivator and “a rejuvenating moment” for him as an educator.

“Schools are not just brick and mortar,” he said. “They are the heart and soul of every person that ever walked through the doors and attended, taught or administered the programs. And I don’t know, the perpetrator, I don’t know who may else have been involved. But I can only pray and the guilty parties will fully understand that they did far more than burn down the building. They burned a hole that in some ways can never be filled.”

District rang bell rescued from school’s rubble to celebrate start of new school year

The same year it burned, a new school, Timberland High School opened that fall. Timberland was built as a result of the merger of Cainhoy, Macedonia and St. Stephen High Schools, opened that fall.

A bell salvaged from the rubble of the school remains at Berkeley County School District headquarters.

“Every time I walk by for a board meeting, I’m very grateful for even that little piece of history,” Wofford said.

Back in August, former Macedonia High School Coach Fulton Mitchum rang the bell to celebrate the start of the new school year.

“I hope that community feel some relief, the people who have put their heart and soul and energy into that school, their lives, their livelihood, their children, their grandchildren, great grandchildren, I just hope in some small measure that today gives you some comfort,” Lewis said.

Lewis said a judge set a $20,000 personal recognizance bond for Davis, who was expected to be released later Wednesday.

VIDEO: Deputies announce arrest in 1996 arson at Macedonia High School

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