South Carolina Teen Accused of Courthouse, Office Arsons

South Carolina authorities said a teenager admitted setting two fires in four days that gutted a historic courthouse and a nearby prosecutor’s office, leaving residents on edge.

Martavious Carter, 17, faces arson charges for the fires in early August. The Lancaster teenager was already in custody when he admitted to setting the blazes, police said.

On August 4, a blaze heavily damaged the town’s historic 180-year-old county courthouse, which had been designed by Washington Monument creator Robert Mills. A second arson gutted the prosecutor’s office in this city of 8,300.

Carter was arrested Sept. 18 and charged with robbing a 70-year-old woman and locking her in her car trunk earlier in the day. He was charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and gun possession charges.

Authorities told media outlets during a news conference he is suspected in a series of robberies and carjackings in Lancaster.

“It’s like a ton of bricks has been lifted off our shoulders,” Lancaster attorney Mandy Powers Norrell told The Herald of Rock Hill. “I live and work in downtown. We had to look over our shoulders for so long. We never had to do that before. It was scary.”

Lancaster is near the North Carolina state line, about 40 miles south of Charlotte, N.C., and 60 miles north of Columbia. It’s the seat of a rural county that is home to less than 65,000 people and where unemployment increased to 12 percent in August.