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Posted on: November 27, 2018

YCSO Detectives Arrest Two in 9-Year-Old Arson Cold Case

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YORK COUNTY, SC – On November 27, 2018 York County Sheriff’s Detectives, Anti-Crime Team, and assistance from State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Agents arrested and charged Robert Allen Lester Jr., 26, and Catherine Paige Neal, 24, with Arson 2nd Degree, Burglary 2nd Degree, and Criminal Conspiracy for the June 24, 2009 Pak’s Martial Arts Center fire investigation.

On the morning of June 24, 2009, deputies responded to assist fire units at Pak's Martial Arts which was determined to be arson.  After an intense investigation, on February 4, 2011, the case was administratively closed for clerical purposes, but never fully concluded. Detectives never gave up optimism that the Pak’s Martial Arts arson would be solved. The case was simply put on hold until additional information would emerge to further the case.

Through a tip received in May 2018 about the possibility of Lester and Neal being involved, Detectives resumed the investigation.  After additional interviews, review of evidence and the assistance of SLED arson investigators, Detectives were able develop Lester and Neal as suspects and eventually charge them.

“We are thankful we can finally give Grand Master Pak and his family some good news and closure of a tragedy from so long ago,” said Sheriff Kevin Tolson. “This case shows that no matter how small of an information tip is, any and all information is important to solving a case. Cold cases are never closed and our Detectives never give up on any case as long as there is information to follow up on and leads to pursue.”

Lester and Neal were booked into the York County Detention Center awaiting a bond hearing.

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