A St. Helena Island man is accused of setting a fire that destroyed his ex-girlfriend's home, according to a news release from the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
Willie Aiken, 32, was charged Monday in connection with a fire earlier that day that burned down the home of a 39-year-old woman and her six children on St. Helena's Legree Road.
The fire was set just more than an hour after Aiken reported his car stolen and told authorities he suspected the 15-year-old son of his ex-girlfriend of taking it, the release said. Authorities believe the incidents likely are related.
A child living at the Legree Road home told deputies she saw Aiken pouring a liquid onto the floor of the laundry room inside the house, according to the release. The girl had been visiting a relative across the street when she went home to get something and found Aiken inside, the release said.
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Aiken told the girl to leave, but she stayed, only to run from the house after watching Aiken strike matches and throw them into the liquid, the release said.
No one was inside the home at the time of the fire, and no injuries were reported.
The fire started about 4:30 p.m. and was extinguished in about 30 minutes. Sheriff's deputies and firefighters from the Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District responded.
Witnesses reported seeing Aiken drive away in a green Chevrolet Suburban and smoke pouring from the home soon after, the release said.
Deputies found Aiken at a relative's house on Clarence Mitchell Road, where he was interviewed and arrested.
Aiken was taken to the Beaufort County Detention Center, where he is being held for prosecution, according to the jail log.
The Sheriff's Office also is investigating a vehicle owned by Aiken that was found on fire Monday and is thought to be associated with the house fire, according to the release.
Aiken reported that his 2013 Buick Century was missing at 3 p.m. Monday, believing it to have be taken by the son of his ex-girlfriend.
At about 5 p.m., the car was found on fire in the parking lot of the Gloria Potts Community Center on Seaside Road. It was destroyed, the release said.
According to a release Monday from the American Red Cross Palmetto Region, one adult and six children were displaced by the home fire.
The Red Cross provided money to replace clothing and provide comfort kits containing personal hygiene items and referrals to partner agencies.
Anyone with information on the investigations into the home and vehicle fires can call investigators at 843-255-3407 or Crime Stoppers at 888-CRIME-SC.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.