Originally created 12/23/05

Former firefighters arrested in arsons



Richmond County sheriff's deputies have arrested two brothers who were once volunteer firefighters in South Carolina in connection with at least four arson cases in downtown Augusta, officials said Thursday.

Christopher Lee Boatwright, 23, of the 400 block of Broad Street, and Daniel Boatwright, 20, of the 1000 block of Hephzibah-McBean Road, were charged with varying counts of arson in the third degree, said sheriff's Sgt. Ken Rogers.

The older brother was arrested Wednesday and charged with four counts of arson and two counts of criminal trespass; the younger brother was arrested Thursday and charged with two arson counts.

Sgt. Rogers said the men were involved in intentionally set fires over the past several months at the following locations:

- Subway, 200 block of 13th Street

- Jessye Norman Amphitheater, Ninth Street at Riverwalk Augusta

- Augusta Common, men's restroom, 800 block of Reynolds Street

- American Red Cross, 1300 block of Ellis Street.

Investigator John Roche said that the older brother would not say why the fires were set but that the younger brother told police that they were set, essentially, because "we (the sheriff's office) couldn't catch them."

Both men were once volunteer firefighters for the Clearwater Fire Department but left in September 2004 after being there for less than a year, said Chief Samuel Turner.

The chief expressed shock at hearing the news of the brothers' arrests.

"Chris - he wasn't the best of the two brothers, but I never thought Daniel was involved in something like that," the chief said.

"Daniel was a good one. That's why it amazes me."

Officials with the Richmond County Sheriff's Office said Christopher Boatwright had been fired from the department, but Chief Turner said neither brother left on bad terms.

"There was no disciplinary action that caused them to be relieved," he said. "It was a mutual separation."

"I never had a bit of trouble with them. I never saw this coming."

Daniel Boatwright had even recently stopped by the firehouse to visit, the chief said.

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.