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St. Stephen firefighter accused of being on the run for 2018 GA rape

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - A Berkeley County firefighter is behind bars in Georgia, accused of raping his ex-wife more than three years ago before going on the run.

St. Stephen’s police and fire chief confirmed that Felix Butler, 39, volunteered for the town’s fire department after the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in Augusta, G.A. announced that he was wanted on a felony rape charge.

Butler made headlines in 2018 when authorities in Augusta publicized that they were searching for him.

Lee Wadford, the St. Stephen chief, says he didn’t know one of his volunteer firefighters was wanted in Georgia.

Wadford said he first became aware after Butler’s former wife, the alleged victim, came to St. Stephen recently and reported that her ex-husband was hiding in plain sight.

St. Stephen Police then arrested Butler and brought him to the Berkeley County Detention Center, where he was taken into custody by Georgia deputies last week. Butler was also removed from the fire service, Wadford said.

South Carolina law requires background checks for all new firefighters, including volunteers.

When asked how Butler was able to become a volunteer firefighter and stay on the force without anyone knowing that he was wanted, Wadford said that the felony warrant for rape in Georgia did not show up in the background check that was conducted for the fire department.

Wadford declined an on-camera interview, but he said over the phone that this has all come as a shock to him because he worked with Butler “for a while.” When asked how long Butler was with the St. Stephen Fire Department, Wadford said that he was not sure.

He said the department is improving its vetting process for hiring firefighters.

Details of the local arrest, copies of Butler’s background check and volunteer firefighter records have not yet been released.

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