Former student, linked by fingerprints, is arrested in 1996 school arson: Sheriff

Daniel Harris, 40, was charged with arson and burglary; he was 17 at the time.

September 26, 2019, 9:37 AM

Twenty-three years after a South Carolina high school was set on fire, a former student -- allegedly linked by his fingerprints -- has been arrested for arson, authorities said.

In the middle of the night in August 1996, Macedonia High School was vandalized and set ablaze, with books in hallways used as kindling, Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis said. The fire wasn't discovered until hours later and the building was "totally destroyed," he said.

"This school represented a community. It was where everything happened. And the people in Macedonia had a love for this school," the sheriff said at a news conference on Wednesday. "And to see it totally destroyed on that Aug. 4 night really devastated a lot of people."

Sally Wofford, chair of the Berkeley County School Board, was in the last graduating class at Macedonia High School before the fire.

"This was a terrible loss of a beautiful, historic building," Wofford said at the news conference. She said when she closes her eyes she still sees the school's "magnificent" hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings.

About two years ago the sheriff said he asked the cold case team to reexamine the unsolved crime.

PHOTO: Daniel Harris is seen here in an undated file photo.
Daniel Harris is seen here in an undated file photo.
Berkeley County Sheriff's Office

That's when investigators "discovered some evidence we didn't know we had" -- "a match on a set of fingerprints that at the time was in a unique place that would have indicated involvement in this crime," Lewis said. He did not elaborate on where the fingerprints were found.

Fingerprint experts identified Daniel Scott Harris, 40, as a suspect; he has been charged with second-degree arson and second-degree burglary, according to the sheriff's office.

Harris was a 17-year-old student at Macedonia High School at the time of the fire, Lewis said.

Based on evidence at the scene, authorities believe more suspects were involved in the arson and burglary, the sheriff said, and he asked anyone with information to come forward.

"I can only pray that the guilty parties will fully understand that they did far more than burn down a building," Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Eddie Ingram said. "They burned a hole that in some ways can never be filled."

"We are so heartbroken but we are also relieved," said Wofford, the school board chair. "I pray this brings closure to a lot of people in a community that I represent that made me who I am."