Task force investigating if others involved in arsons

Published: Nov. 26, 2012 at 4:02 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2012 at 1:05 PM EST
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Arson suspect Kenneth Boone, compared to a sketch released by police.
Arson suspect Kenneth Boone, compared to a sketch released by police.
A Jun. 30, 2011 fire at 563 Rutledge Avenue.
A Jun. 30, 2011 fire at 563 Rutledge Avenue.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston police officials said on Monday they have arrested a 55-year-old Charleston man in connection to a number of fires and are looking into the possibility of others being involved.

City officials along with the Charleston Police Department and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office held a press conference at City Hall Monday afternoon where it was announced that 55-year-old Kenneth Carlton Boone has been charged with one count of arson, two counts of third-degree arson and one count of solicitation to commit arson.

An arrest affidavit states Boone, who was arrested over the weekend, has been starting fires in Charleston and Charleston County and then later profiting by performing the repairs.

Charleston Police Chief Gregg Mullen said Boone is suspected of starting a fire at a home on 48 Montagu Street in Dec. 2010. According to Mullen, Boone then worked on renovating the home following the fire.

Mullen said the investigation was still in the early stages and that it was premature to link one to more fires. According to Mullen, it is a possibility that Boone could have recruited others to help him set fires.

Mullen is urging anyone with information to come forward to help with the operation.

Police officials say Boone came under their attention after investigators received a tip. Mullen said the tip indicated that a man who was working in housing in Charleston had asked an acquaintance to participate in starting a fire in Hollywood, SC.

According to an affidavit, the confidential informant reached out to investigators in early November, saying Boone was "starting fires in the City and in the County of Charleston and then later profiting by performing the repair work."

In a series of recorded telephone conversations, the affidavit states Boone told the informant he had already "worked it out" so that he would perform the repair work on the home in Hollywood he was plotting to set fire early Friday morning a little after 3 a.m.

Documents state Boone told the informant he would be paid $1,000 for repair work and he also said he would bring paint to apply the words "this house is ours" on the residence, as he knew the house was empty because of an heir's ownership dispute between several individuals.

When Boone picked up the informant around 3 a.m.  last Friday, investigators executed a traffic  stop on Highway 162 and Highway 17, where they  found a plastic milk jug filled with what  appeared to be gasoline, according to the affidavit.

The informant told police Boone told him he would pour the gas through a window at the home and light it with a napkin and went on to say the house had burned a couple of times.  After that admission, investigators charged Boone with arsons at that home which occurred on Aug. 18 and Sept. 24.

Court records list Boone's address at 5 Glenwood Avenue, which is located near Hampton Park, not far from many of the 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.

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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