Tucked inside a cul-de-sac surrounded by 3,000-square-foot houses and a golf course, authorities say the single-story yellow house at 4 Garth Drive held an explosive secret.
Neighbors in the Shadowmoss Plantation in West Ashley watched in disbelief and horror Thursday morning as heavily armed federal, state and local authorities remotely directed a robot inside the house.
Hours later a judge set a $1 million bond for the homeowner, a former gun shop owner accused of keeping bomb-making materials inside.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office charged Chester Eugene Pilcher, 46, with possessing the parts, components and materials for manufacturing destructive devices.
According to an affidavit, on Jan. 5 Pilcher sold five M228 detonating grenade fuses and a 1-pound container of Hodgdon Pyrodex to a confidential federal source for $500 in marked bills. The affidavit says the materials can be assembled to construct a destructive device.
Agents searched the house and found items relevant to the search warrant, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin McDonald said.
Neighbor Lynne Parker saw the bomb squad outside her front porch while getting ready to take her son to school.
"It's made me a nervous wreck this morning," Parker said.
Another neighbor, Robbie McDaniel, described himself as a good friend of Pilcher's. Before Pilcher's arrest, McDaniel said he found it hard to imagine the accusations had any merit.
"Believe me, they're not going to find anything," McDaniel said. "He's just a victim of circumstances."
McDaniel said Pilcher once owned C&C Gun Shop on S.C. Highway 61 but closed it recently because of the economy. He said Pilcher now owned his own landscaping business.
"He's a pretty mild-mannered fellow," he said. "It's a shock to all of us."
Agents with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the house, assisted by agents with the State Law Enforcement Division, the Sheriff's Office and Charleston Police.