Staff report

Two men pleaded guilty in federal court today to making meth in a Goose Creek apartment that was the site of a deadly fire last May.

Gerald McCabe, 34, and Shonni Abernathy, 40, pleaded guilty to two of the charges in the original three-count indictment: one count of conspiring to make more than 50 grams, or almost 2 ounces, of meth and one count of making meth.

The two men had also originally been charged with one count of creating a substantial risk of harm to human life while manufacturing meth.

They will be sentenced at a later date.

Alberta Pierson, 36, and Michael Still, 19, who were indicted in September and charged with one count of conspiring to make meth also were scheduled to change their pleas from not guilty during a scheduled hearing today, but the hearing was canceled, according to court filings.

Three people died in the May 31 fire at Pine Harbour Apartments on Harbour Lake Drive, including Abernathy’s 19-year-old daughter, Morgan.

The fire destroyed a 16-unit apartment building and also killed the cousin Morgan was baby-sitting, 4-year-old Sammy Garbe, and 69-year-old military veteran Joseph Raeth, who died in a neighboring unit.

Investigators found chemicals and other materials in the rubble. Affidavits say Abernathy and McCabe had been making meth the morning of the fire.

Abernathy is currently jailed at the MacDougall Correctional Institution in Ridgeville for violating his probation in a previous cocaine possession conviction. McCabe has been jailed at the Ridgeland Correctional Institution serving a sentence for violating his probation in a previous assault and battery conviction. Still and Pierson were released on $50,000 bail.

All four suspects in the fire case were initially charged in state court, but authorities opted to pursue a federal prosecution because it would likely result in greater penalties.

Read more about the proceedings in Tuesday’s Post and Courier.