2008 arson charges against former Bluffton firefighter, ex-wife dropped

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMarch 11, 2014 

A former Bluffton firefighter and his ex-wife no longer face arson charges in connection with a 2008 fire that consumed their Okatie home, a 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office spokesman confirmed Tuesday.

The charges were dropped March 5 after the Solicitor's Office determined it would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Robert Pairman, 49, and Kelly Nestor Pairman, 45, are guilty, spokesman Daniel Brownstein said.

The Pairmans were charged with second-degree arson and animal mistreatment in September 2010, almost two years after the Nov. 4, 2008, fire at their home on Capers Creek Drive. Firefighters took 45 minutes to put out the fire, which killed one of the family's two dogs, according to reports from the Bluffton Township Fire District.

The Pairmans were indicted in October 2010, according to court records.

Brownstein said arson cases are "time-consuming to prosecute" but declined to say why it took nearly four years for the Solicitor's Office to decide to drop the charges. Attempts Tuesday to reach Solicitor Duffie Stone for comment were unsuccessful.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Robert Pairman's attorney, Cory Fleming, and Kelly Pairman's attorney, Sam Bauer, also were unsuccessful. The Pairmans were divorced in June 2010, according to court records.

Brownstein said the case remains under investigation, although the Solicitor's Office had already used nearly all its investigative tools. If new evidence is uncovered, charges against either of the Pairmans could be reinstated because there is no statute of limitations for arson, he said.

Solicitor's Office arrest warrants released around the time of the Pairmans' arrests indicate investigators found traces of accelerant and a book on arson inside the home. In Robert Pairman's warrant, an unnamed witness reported Pairman asked how to start a fire without being detected.

No cause for the fire was ever made public, and Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh said Tuesday she didn't know if a cause was ever determined. Brownstein declined to comment, citing the active investigation.

Pairman, a firefighter with the Bluffton Township Fire District since 1995, was suspended from the department a day after his arrest. He resigned Nov. 12, 2010, according to fire district officials.

About a year later, his EMT recertification was denied by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control because of the pending arson charge. Pairman appealed the decision, which was upheld in December 2011 after he failed to show up for a hearing, a DHEC spokesman said at the time.Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.

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