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Man charged in connection with Anderson Co. arson cases

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Matthew Collett (Source: Anderson Co. Sheriff's Office) Matthew Collett (Source: Anderson Co. Sheriff's Office)
ANDERSON, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An Anderson man is behind bars, charged with arson and attempted murder in connection to two fires earlier this year.

33-year-old Matthew Collett is in the Anderson County Detention Center. He was arrested Sunday evening.

Deputies say he intentionally set fire to a home on Cartee Road March 30. 81-year-old Bill Cheek, a military veteran, died while trying to put out that fire. However, Collett is not charged with murder.

"In order to charge Mr. Collett with murder, we would have to prove some element of malice toward Mr. Cheek," Anderson Co. Fire Chief Billy Gibson said Monday. "Right now, that's something we can't prove."

Cheek was Collett's neighbor, and residents nearby say they recall an incident between the two months before the fire.

"He was questioned by my neighbor there, Bill Cheek, why he was in his yard at 9:30, quarter to ten," neighbor Frank Ayers recalled, adding Collett was a "strange bird."

Neighbors said they were not surprised when they learned Collett was arrested for the crime. Deputies also charged him with third degree arson and attempted murder for the Aug. 14 fire at Azalea Apartments on Nunnally Road, which left 37 families homeless.

"As part of that investigation, we uncovered evidence that led us back to the fire back in March on Cartee Road," Gibson said.

Deputies still have no motive in the case. Collett is in jail on a $25,000 bond in connection with the two arson charges. He has not yet faced a judge as to the attempted murder charge.

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