Despite the arrest of a suspect in a number of local fires, Charleston residents should still be on the lookout for a serial arsonist who set fire to more than 80 downtown structures. At a press conference on Monday afternoon at Charleston City Hall, Chief of Police Gregory Mullen and other city officials maintained that the investigation is still in its early stages, and the serial arsonist could still be out there.
"This investigation is still in its infancy, and there's a lot of work left to be done," Mullen said. "We believe that there are others that have important information to assist the case."
Mullen adds, "I think they should breathe a little easier knowing that at least one person who has set fire is now in jail." But he tells residents to continue to be watchful and to share information with the Arson Task Force.
Established in July 2010, the city's Arson Task Force is comprised of members of the Charleston Police Department, the Charleston Fire Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. In October, the task force's arson hotline received a tip that Kenneth Boone, a 55-year-old construction worker who had worked on houses in Charleston, had allegedly asked the tipster to participate in starting a fire in Hollywood. Boone reportedly intended to profit from the construction that would have to occur due to fire damage. The task force then began an undercover investigation, monitoring Boone throughout the day and night.
On Nov. 23, 2012 at 2:30 a.m., the task force executed a plan to arrest Boone on his way to the Hollywood house. Boone picked up a second individual in Charleston and began to drive around the area "in a manner consistent to avoid detection," Mullen said. Boone was stopped and arrested, and a container of gasoline was found in the rear of his vehicle.
Boone was arrested by the sheriff's department and charged with one count of solicitation to commit arson, as well as two counts of arson in the third degree for arsons in Hollywood in August and September 2012. After additional interviews were conducted, an additional third degree arson charge was brought against Boone for a crime committed at 48 Montagu St. in December 2010 — Boone worked on the renovations of that particular house following the fire. Mullen would not speculate whether or not Boone is a suspect in any arsons that have involved injury or death. Boone's bond is currently set at $225,000, but Mullen believes it may go up when the additional charge is taken into account.
The reward that has been established for information on the city's arsonist has not yet been claimed.
"Even though there has been an arrest, we cannot stress enough that we have multiple ongoing investigations that are going beyond this arrest," Chief Fire Marshall Michael Julazadeh added. "We have other theories out there that we are still working through. We're not done yet." Mullen did say that the sketch of an arson suspect released previously isn't the person who was arrested.