21-year-old accused of intentionally setting fire at home on Greene Street

Frank John Wilberding being arrested by the CPD. CPD photo.

The Columbia Police and Fire Departments and the S.C. Law Enforcement Division have announced the arrest of a 21-year-old man accused of intentionally setting a fire at a home on Greene Street.

Frank John Wilberding was arrested shortly before noon Tuesday near the intersection of Laurens and Greene Streets and is charged with Two Counts of Arson – Second Degree and Possession of a Controlled Substance – Schedule IV (Xanax). CPD, CFD and SLED consulted with the Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office regarding the charges.

Wilberding is accused of setting a fire on the porch at the 1716 Greene Street shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday. Flames spread to the home next door (1710 Greene Street) causing significant damage to both buildings. Total estimated cost of damages is approximately $450,000. The two homes are owned by Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife Peggy, according to numerous media reports.

Link to report of the fire

During the course of the investigation, CPD, CFD and SLED discovered that there was an attempt to set materials on a back porch of a home at the 1800 block of Greene Street on fire. Investigators continue to analyze evidence to determine if that fire was also intentionally set by Wilberding.

According to Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins 48 firefighters helped extinguish the flames from the initial fire. Luckily all residents made it out safely and no one was injured.

Jenkins says, “Once we put out the fire, we had residents come up and say that they had video of a person, so at that point we realized that we needed to turn this over the law enforcement.”

Police Chief W.H. “Skip” Holbrook says, “He is the same person seen in the surveillance video that’s been circulating around.”

After the release of the surveillance pictures of the suspect, CPD received a Crimestoppers tip regarding his identity.

Holbrook adds, “Anytime we have video, it makes our jobs so much easier. It’s an instant pointer for us to look in the right direction. This particular video not only gave us an insight as to how the fire potentially started, it also gave us a very clear shot of the person responsible for setting the fire. Then, we were able to push that information out to the public.”

A short time later, Wilberding was seen by CPD and SLED walking near the crime scene and was detained, arrested and taken to CPD Headquarters for questioning.

Wilberding was taken to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center (ASGDC).

All persons arrested/charged are presumed innocent until or unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Investigators continue to determine a motive for the arson. At this time, it does not appear that Wilberding had an accomplice during the crime.

Categories: Columbia, Crime, Richland County

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