The trial of a man accused of setting a Bluffton business ablaze late last year is set to start this morning, according to the 14th Circuit Solicitor's Office.
Andre Leon DeCosta, 31, of Bluffton faces charges of third-degree arson, second-degree burglary and grand larceny after allegedly setting fire Nov. 29 to Dan's Fan City at 22 Plantation Park Drive, then moments later breaking into Ligato's Fine Jewelry at nearby 80 Baylor Drive.
Anthony Terrell Hamilton, 21, of Walterboro also faces charges in connection with the arson and robbery. His trial date has not been set, according to the Solicitor's Office.
The blaze was among four fires within a month at Bluffton-area businesses. Authorities believe all were started when a flaming object -- usually a bottle filled with gasoline -- was thrown through a broken window.
USA Rider Co., which sold and rented motorcycles at the same plaza as Dan's Fan City, closed after a suspected arson that burned all 10 of its bikes Nov. 11.
The other fires both occurred Nov. 4 at Easy-2-Own Furnishings at 21 Simmonsville Road and Top Dollar Pawn in Sheridan Park.
DeCosta also has been charged with second-degree burglary, arson and petit theft in connection with the Easy-2-Own fire. A trial date on those charges has not been set.
DeCosta has been in the Beaufort County Detention Center since his arrest Nov. 29, according to the jail log. Hamilton was released from the jail after posting bond in January, according to court records.
Two other businesses, Coastal Custom Carts and Pella Windows & Doors, also were damaged in the Nov. 29 arson. Each shop has returned to its original location in Plantation Business Park, while Dan's Fan City found a new home next to its old shop in the same plaza.
Mark Kratochvil, co-owner of the fan shop, said Monday he plans to attend the trial and expects DeCosta to receive the maximum sentence if convicted.
Kratochvil said his business might have closed if not for the assistance of his landlord, friends and customers.
"The community has been very, very supportive of us," he said. "Business-wise, we're hurting like everyone else, but at least we're still here."
Judge Thomas Cooper will hear the case, according to the Solicitor's Office.
Follow reporter Cassie Foss at twitter.com/LCBlotter.