Father, son charged with threatening witnesses in arson case

Dwight Lee Valis (left) and Dwight Lee Valis II are charged with intimidating witnesses in an arson case.

A father and son have been charged with threatening witnesses in an arson case involving the home of the chairwoman of Dorchester District 2’s school board.

The house Gail Hughes inherited from her mother was gutted by fire Nov. 10. Investigators said family members set the fire in an attempt to cover up the theft of jewelry.

The father is Dwight Lee Valis, 49, of Pike Drive. He is Hughes’ brother-in-law. His son is Dwight Lee Valis II, 23, of West Steele Drive. The elder Valis is out on bail, while his son remains in jail on other charges, including first-degree burglary and third-degree arson.

The younger Valis was sitting in jail March 7 when he made a phone call and threatened a potential witness, according to an affidavit from the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office. The conversation was recorded, and the witness confirmed it, according to the affidavit. The witness was not identified.

The elder Valis’ estranged wife is another potential witness in the case. Investigators say she drove the younger Valis and another man to the house so they could burglarize it and set in on fire. Shelva L. Valis, 61, of West Steele Drive was arrested and charged with first-degree burglary.

On March 18, Valis told his wife he would kill her and her children if his son goes to prison, according to another affidavit. She told deputies she took the threats seriously because he has assaulted her before and has a history of violence.

Valis was sentenced to five years in prison in 1987 for receiving stolen goods and breaking into railway cars, according to criminal records with the State Law Enforcement Division. He was sentenced to another three years in 2006 for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature after being sexually involved with a 15-year-old girl, according to the Sheriff’s Office sex registry. He and his wife lived in a camper behind the family house until Hughes inherited it and kicked them off the property last summer.

After Valis’ wife said he threatened her, he was charged with intimidating a witness and criminal domestic violence and released on $22,130 bail.

Valis and his wife are separated, and she has no contact with him now, Sheriff’s Capt. Tony Phinney said.

The younger Valis remains in the Dorchester County jail on $125,000 bail. He also faces Berkeley County charges of receiving stolen goods and obtaining money by false pretenses after investigators said he sold jewelry from the house to a pawnshop near Summerville.

Investigators said the front door to the house on Embassy Drive had been forced open and the fire set in four different places.

Hughes had just been re-elected to her third term on the school board. She went public with her suspicions about who was behind the fire and offered a $1,000 reward for tips leading to an arrest.

She didn’t return a phone call asking for comment on the latest arrests.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.