Donation of furniture to firebombing victims elicits both gratitude and a surprise
MOUNT PLEASANT — The delivery of donated furniture to a family whose home was firebombed on Jan. 2 — leaving them temporarily homeless and without possessions — drew deep gratitude from the parents and some information from their 18-year-old son.
The cinderblock home of Julie and Howard Williams in Mount Pleasant’s Hamlin Community was torched with a firebomb in the early morning hours of Jan. 2. The house was her childhood home.
Raheim Bradley, 18, of Boston Grill Road, was later arrested and charged with arson. Bradley, who denied setting the fire, was released on bond last weekend.
This week the Williams family, including their 23-year-old son, Caleb, and 18-year-old son, Michael, who live with them, moved into a mobile home owned by one of Julie Williams’ cousins.
The unfurnished mobile home will serve as a temporary residence while the couple, who did not have homeowner’s insurance, look for a permanent one.
A group of strangers, spearheaded by Steve Paterniti of the Lowcountry Furniture Bank, heard about the family’s situation and sent out requests for donations earlier this week.
About 15 people — representing River Church’s “Uncentered” group, Charleston Services Group, SAIC at the Naval Weapons Station, the Medical University of South Carolina and Roper St. Francis Healthcare — delivered several truckloads of donated, used furniture and new mattresses to the trailer on Saturday morning.
The kindness touched the couple who expressed gratitude to the group.
“We are so thankful,” said Julie Williams, who recently battled breast cancer.
While the volunteers and reporters were still at the mobile home, her son Michael opened up about the incident, giving specifics that Julie Williams said she had not heard yet.
Michael, who prefers to be called “Mikey,” described the man accused of arson as “an associate I knew for a couple of years.”
“I wouldn’t say he was a friend of mine,” said Michael, who is unemployed.
“We got into a little altercation the night before (the firebombing) … I don’t think the altercation was that bad for him to go come at me with my family,” he said.
When asked what the altercation was over, Michael said it was over $400 in “illegal money.” He declined to say how the money was illegal.
Howard Williams, who works as a floor technician at East Cooper Medical Center, eventually cut off the interview, saying the family wanted to stay positive and focus on the kindness of those who donated furniture.
Julie Williams, who is a pre-school teacher, said she wants the person who firebombed her house to understand the consequences of his actions, but she doesn’t want him to go to jail.
She wants him to find a job and pay restitution to the family, she said.