“I didn’t do it.”
Those weren’t the words Julie Williams wanted to hear from the teenager accused of firebombing her East Cooper home this week. Instead, she wanted to know why she and her family were left homeless.
But when Raheim Bradley, 18, went before a magistrate in North Charleston Friday, he denied setting fire to the Rifle Range Road home where Williams and her family lived.
Bradley, who lives nearby on Boston Grill Road, has been charged with third-degree arson and first-degree burglary.
Bradley, who according to state law enforcement records has never been arrested before, was friends with Williams’ 18-year-old son, Williams said after the hearing. Williams told Magistrate Judge Linda Lombard that Bradley had visited her home on several occasions visiting her son.
“I like the young man,” Williams said. “I just would like to know why.”
Williams, who is a preschool teacher, told Lombard the act was “thoughtless, uncaring (and) unjustifiable.”
She hasn’t received any answers yet from her son about whether Bradley might have had a possible motive, she said.
“If he is the one who did it, I could only surmise an altercation took place,” Williams said.
The inside of the family’s home was destroyed by the fire. “We lost everything. We left with the clothes on our backs,” Williams said.
Bradley made his plea of innocence from jail through a television monitor set up inside the courtroom. “It wasn’t me. I have a heart and I would never do this,” he said.
Bradley said in court that he doesn’t understand why he has been accused of setting the house on fire. Investigators were led to him after a neighbor told deputies she saw a young man wearing dark clothes and a hoodie toss something through the front door of the house just before the fire broke out Wednesday, according to the incident report from the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
The neighbor said she saw something flash inside the house and smoke start pouring out. She then saw the young man run off toward Jefferson and Boston Grill roads. Another witness said the young man was named “Raheem” and lived on Boston Grill Road.
A friend of Bradley told the judge that the Williams family was not living in the home because it was being foreclosed upon. Lombard called that “irrelevant,” and Julie Williams, who confirmed that the house is under foreclosure, said they were living there but weren’t home at the time of the fire.
Another woman, who identified herself in court as Bradley’s grandmother, told the judge that Bradley was in school at the time the fire started. She later declined to tell a reporter her name.
Bradley attends Wando High School, according to statements made in court. He told Lombard he is just a few credits away from graduating.
“This is the best school year I’ve ever had,” Bradley said. “I’m doing so good right now.”
Lombard set his bail at $50,000. As of Friday afternoon, Bradley remained in jail at the Cannon Detention Center.
Williams told the judge that Bradley has a home to go back to if he gets out of jail, while she and her family have none. They were expected to check out of the motel provided to them by the American Red Cross this morning. While grateful for the nonprofit organizations’ help so far, she said her family is still in trouble.
“We have nowhere to go,” Williams said.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.