By: Natalie Caula
Charleston, SC (WCIV)- The Ninth Circuit Solicitor will not prosecute a criminal case in the Sofa Super Store fire. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson released a statement early Friday afternoon, a day after SLED officials announced they had turned over their report on the fire to her. The letter addressed to Wilson from SLED is dated January 31st, 2011.
In the letter, it states based on Wilson's request to conduct an inquiry into the fire incident that occurred on June 18, 2007, SLED assigned several agents to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident. The letter was written by Major Roger Heaton, Assistant Director of Investigative Services for SLED.
"The agents assigned to this inquiry were chosen based on a combination of specialties that included years of investigative experience, arson investigative experience, and knowledge of firefighting," Major Heaton stated.
He went on to state that based on all the information gathered by agents, the determination was made that this matter does not meet the criteria for a SLED criminal investigation.
"It is my understanding that the Charleston Police Department concurs with SLED's findings that no warrants will be sought by either agency for General Sessions prosecution," Wilson stated in a press release Friday.
With no law enforcement agencies fililng warrants, Wilson said the Solicitor's Office has no case to prosecute.
"We prosecute cases that law enforcement investigates. They both [Charleston Police Department and SLED] have told us that they are not bringing charges therefore I have no case to close or to dismiss. Based on the information both agencies have shared with me over the months and years, I do not disagree," Wilson stated in an email Friday afternoon.
"It's Not Over"
Ann Mulkey says she carries June 18th, 2007 and the death of her son, firefighter Louis Mulkey in the Sofa Super Store fire, with her everyday.
"Everyday of our life, everyday of our life. First thing in the morning and the last thing at night and there's not a day that goes by that we don't talk about him," Mulkey said.
Her husband, Mike and her say they've been calling for accountability, particularly from the City of Charleston, in regards to the deaths of the nine firefighters.
"Those men should not have died in that fire. Pure negligence and ignorance," Ann Mulkey said.
It's been more than three years since the Sofa Super Store fire. Throughout that time families like the Mulkey's have watched report after report dissect the fire and the City of Charleston Fire Department.
On May 15, 2008, the City of Charleston released a report, referred to as "The Routley Report" conducted by an outside review panel, made up of fire experts and investigators from around the country in the fire industry. Several other reports followed, including NIOSH, OSHA, and NIST.
Once those reports were released, Ann Mulkey and her husband Mike along with Randy Hutchinson, Billy Hutchinson's brother, said they expected to see people held accountable.
"I can't tell the people out there who say, ‘Just drop it, push it under the rug, leave it alone, why are you doing this?' Let their family member die. Let their youngest son die in a fire like this and see what they do," Ann Mulkey said.
It's a fight she said is long from over. The Mulkey and Hutchinson families say they are now moving forward with pursuing a federal investigation through the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"This is round two. We're going to take it to the next level, and then we're going to take it to the next level," Mulkey said. "We knew when we started this it may take years to get what we wanted and it may take us another five, it may take us another ten, but I'm going to tell you right now, we'll go to our graves doing it… I'm angry, I'm hurt, I'm disappointed, but I will keep fighting, we all will."
Former Charleston Fire Department Chief Rusty Thomas declined comment Friday afternoon. A request for comment from the City of Charleston Mayor's Office was not returned Friday.
The text from the full letter from SLED Assistant Director of Investigative Services to Solicitor Scarlett Wilson can be seen below.
"Dear Solicitor Wilson,
You have requested that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) conduct an inquiry into the fire incident that occurred at the Sofa Superstore in Charleston, which led to the deaths of nine Charleston Firefighters. Based on that request, SLED assigned several agents to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident. The agents assigned to this inquiry were chosen based on a combination of specialties that included years of investigative experience, arson investigative experience, and knowledge of firefighting. The agents collectively, and in smaller working groups, have met with a large number of concerned family members, friends, and former co-workers of the deceased firemen on numerous occasions. The agents were provided information orally at these meetings and they received numerous prepared documents. In an effort to determine if the inquiry should proceed to a full investigative effort, the agents have completely and thoroughly discussed this information, analyzed all of the documentation provided, and reviewed the findings of OSHA and other professional organizations that have conducted independent inquires into this incident. It is the duty of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to provide consistent, professional, competent, and impartial service in matters requiring criminal investigations consistent with the best interest of the citizens of South Carolina.
Therefore, based on the totality of the information that the agents have been provided, analyzed, and reviewed, the determination has been made that this matter does not meet the criteria for a SLED criminal investigation, at this time. However, if you have additional mitigating circumstances, this position can be reconsidered. If I can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to call on me.
Roger S. Heaton, Major
Assistant Director Investigative Services/Special Investigations/Special Operations
South Carolina Law Enforcement Division"