FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2008
SEVERAL ARSON CASES EXPLAINED UPON SCFC ARREST OF FIREFIGHTER
(Columbia,SC)–-In a solid example of inter-agency cooperation among the law enforcement community, officers with the South Carolina Forestry Commission and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office have obtained the confession of a volunteer firefighter to a number of arson cases.
Matthew Catoe, 18, is a volunteer firefighter with the Bethune Fire Department. He is the son of Bethune Fire Chief Darren Catoe. Matthew Catoe has been charged with three counts of woods arson by the Forestry Commission. SCFC officers arrested him yesterday on suspicion of starting a fire on his family’s land at Hwy 341 at Freeman Rd. Forestry Commission officers were in the area yesterday at the time of the fire. There had been recent attempts at woods arson there and they were anticipating another. After responding to the fire, Forestry Commission officers interviewed witnesses and subsequently arrested Catoe. Upon interviewing him, he confessed to this fire and two others which occurred on Arcadia Road last month.
In addition to those charges, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office has charged him with the fire which destroyed the Bethune Recreation Center in November. The sheriff’s office has also charged him with a mobile home fire and the burning of road paving equipment in November. Catoe faces six individual counts altogether. Damages are estimated to exceed a million dollars.
Arson committed by professional firefighters, while shocking, is not uncommon. In recent years, the South Carolina Forestry Commission’s law enforcement division has gained national recognition for its work to create a functional criminal profile of the firefighter-turned-arsonist. Initial evaluations suggest Catoe fits this profile.
All woods and wildland arson crimes threaten the number one manufacturing industry in South Carolina—forestry. South Carolina’s forestland, both public and private, is sustained and managed to produce revenue. When our state’s forests are burned or stolen from, it impacts our economic well being. Woods arson in particular is a felony. The South Carolina Forestry Commission is dedicated to wildfire suppression. Woods arson crimes will be prosecuted in South Carolina.
ALL SUBJECTS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED INNOCENT UNLESS PROVEN OTHERWISE IN A COURT OF LAW.
Editors, News Directors: For more information, call Scott Hawkins at (803) 896-8820.
The SC Forestry Commission’s mission is to protect and develop South Carolina’s forest resource. For every $1.00 invested by SC in the Commission, the industry produces about $1,000.00 of economic impact.