After nearly nine months behind bars, a Charleston man accused of setting three fires around the Lowcountry is back on the streets after a bondsman posted $175,000 to get him out of jail.
Kenny Boone, 56, of Glenwood Avenue, had been jailed at the Cannon Detention Center since his November arrest, which was trumpeted by city officials as a long-awaited break-through in an investigation into more than 80 suspicious fires around Charleston.
While he was locked up, investigators encountered no suspicious fires that fit the profile of the string of arsons. But police also have not linked any of the unsolved blazes to Boone or filed any more charges against him in that time.
Boone’s attorney, David Aylor, has cautioned people to withhold judgment on his client while police continue their investigation into the string of arsons. He said his client takes the charges very seriously but is trying to restore some normalcy to his life.
“Essentially, he’s going to be taking care of his elderly parents at their home, working to support himself and them,” Aylor said.
Boone’s bail had been reduced in December from the original $300,000 to $175,000. An attempt to further lower that bail amount last week before Circuit Judge Thomas Hughston Jr. failed, according to Aylor.
Following Hughston’s refusal to reduce the bail, Boone came up with the money to get himself out of jail. Boone, who does construction, was looking to get back to work following his release, he said.
Boone is charged with two counts of third-degree arson in connection with fires at a house in Hollywood, one count of third-degree arson involving a house at 48 Montagu St. in Charleston and one count of solicitation to commit arson, according to arrest affidavits.
Charleston police Capt. Naomi Broughton, a member of the city’s arson task force, said police were alerted of Boone’s release. She said authorities are aware of Boone’s desire to return to working in the construction trade and they intend to keep tabs on him, within the limits of the law, as they do with other suspects of interest who are in the community while awaiting trial.
Boone’s arrest was the culmination of a complex undercover operation that began in October with a tip to the city’s arson hotline, which in turn fueled new life into the hunt for a serial arsonist that torched downtown homes over the past decade. The fires were centered around a tightly packed area of the peninsula bisected by the Septima P. Clark Parkway, better known as the Crosstown.
The fires began at least in the early 2000s and were set every year after that, according to a Post and Courier analysis. It’s unclear whether they were the work of one person, though given the length of time, it’s plausible that several fire-setters were at work.
After a rash of fires in the summer of 2011, the city reconstituted its arson task force and offered what eventually grew to a $50,000 reward. Police and firefighters canvassed neighborhoods, installed surveillance cameras and put up red arson hotline signs in front of homes that burned.
The task force got a break in late October when someone called the hotline, according to Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen. The tipster said a man who worked on houses in Charleston had asked an acquaintance to start a fire in Hollywood.
One affidavit outlined how a confidential informant earlier said he believed Boone “was starting fires to residences in the City and County of Charleston, and then later profiting by performing the repair work.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Boone told a confidential informant that he would pick him up at about 3 a.m. at the corner of Ashley Avenue and Huger Street, an arrest affidavit said. That morning, the team saw Boone pick up a man and head toward Hollywood.
During the trip, “he made several comments,” the affidavit said. “Kenneth said he had a gallon of gas ... and went on to say the house had burned a couple of times.”
As Boone and the confidential informant neared Hollywood, police and deputies stopped Boone’s car at S.C. Highway 162 and U.S. Highway 17 and took him into custody.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
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