One week later, family remembers elderly victim killed in fire - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

One week later, family remembers elderly victim killed in deadly fire

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By Nikki Gaskins
ngaskins@abcnews4.com

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCIV)— Thursday marked one week since that deadly fire at the Pine Harbour Apartment Complex in Goose Creek. For the first time, Peter Raeth, the younger brother of one of the victims, spoke to ABC News 4 about his family's loss.

"In the last few days, it's been a whirlwind and we've tried to deal with it rationally," said Peter.

On Wednesday, Peter and his family said their final goodbyes to 69-year-old Joseph Raeth during his funeral at Divine Redeemer Parish in Hanahan. Joseph died inside his apartment not far from the unit where investigators say they discovered an active meth lab.

"He was initially identified by his belt buckle. There was nothing exterior that could be recognized," Peter said. "The coroner did a dental records examination to confirm all that."

Samuel Garbe, 4, and Morgan Abernathy, 19, also died in the May 31 blaze. On Wednesday it was Morgan's father, 39-year-old Shonni Abernathy who faced a judge on meth related charges along with 33-year-old Jerald McCabe.

"They've proven to be a clear threat to the community," stated Peter.

A judge granted both men bond at $370,000 each; however, Joseph's brother hopes more charges follow.

"If they show that these people started the fire and the fire was spread rapidly because of the nature of the chemicals, then I would think that manslaughter at least," he said.

According to Dan Moon, the spokesperson for the Berkeley County Sheriff's Office, he says more charges could follow; however, what those charges could be still is unclear.

Known for his kind heart and love for animals, Joseph retired as a captain in the United States Air Force and volunteered his time at Trident Technical College.

"He tutored people in math and computer science," his brother said.

As the investigation into the actual cause of the fire continues, Peter says his family is trying to not let their emotions get the best of them.

"It's easy to let yourself fall into thoughts of revenge and hate but I don't believe that's the Christian way."

Joseph never had any children but is survived by two younger brothers and two sisters. Peter says his brother's remains were cremated. They plan to hold an actual burial for him some time next year.

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