An Aiken man has been charged with arson and child neglect after he allegedly set fire to clothing in his girlfriend’s closet while three children were inside the home on Tuesday, according to the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
Whitton Armond Hicks, 21, was charged with third-degree arson and three counts of legal custodian unlawful neglect of a child and placed in the Aiken County detention center.
Officers arriving on the scene found a significant amount of smoke coming from the apartment and Hicks, along with his girlfriend and three children outside, according to the report.
Hicks was using his girlfriend’s phone earlier to complete an online job application when a text from another man came into the phone for his girlfriend, which “angered” him, according to the report.
“Mr. Hicks stated that he confronted her about the text, then got mad and began packing his belongings,” the report said. “He stated that while packing his belongings (and smoking a cigar), that he may have accidentally set something on fire. Mr. Hicks then stated that he didn’t care if it all burned down. He continued saying that he was leaving ‘Carolina and going to Atlanta’ anyway.”
Investigators found an open paper match book on a shelf near the charred area inside the closet and a partially burned paper match on the floor behind some shoes, according to the report. Hicks said he used a cigarette lighter to light his cigar.
The victim told officers that after Hicks got angry about the text message, she went into the kitchen to tend to the children, whom she was baby-sitting, according to the report. When she went back into the bedroom, she saw her clothing on fire.
After trying to put the fire out and calling 911, the victim asked Hicks why he burned her clothes, then grabbed a bottle of bleach and began pouring it on his clothes on the front porch of the apartment, according to the report.
“She reported that Mr. Hicks then got mad and began trying to light his own clothing on fire, using a book of paper matches,” the report stated, adding that the victim said Hicks never smoked inside the apartment.
Investigators also found an empty paper match book in one of Hicks’ pants pockets, which was consistent with the matches found on the front porch and in the closet, officials said.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.