York County deputies arrest 2 in case of vandalism, arson after nearly a decade

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A York County cold case has been solved after nearly a decade, the Sheriff's Office says. 

On June 24, 2009, Pak's Martial Arts was burned down to the ground. Investigators also found evidence of racist graffiti on the building.

On Tuesday, Nov. 27 Robert Allen Lester Jr., 26 and Catherine Page Neal, 24,  were arrested and charged in connection to the case. The two face charges of arson, burglary and criminal conspiracy.

“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.”

Back in 2009, deputies and firefighters responded to the building fire. With the assistance of SLED and the Fire Marshals Office, the fire was determined to be arson.

"When we first heard about the fire the night of June 24, 2009, there were a lot of things going through my head-- who? what? why? It kind of messes with your psyche," said Daniel Pak, who runs the Martial Arts studio with his father. 

In May of 2018, the York County Sheriff's Office received a tip, which led to these two arrests. 

Sheriff Tolson did not want to comment on a motive at the press conference on Tuesday, and said the arson appears to be a random crime.

When asked about the racist graffiti and if the incident would be investigated as a hate crime, the Sheriff said those charges would have to come from the federal government. 

"There is a hate element to this with the graffiti that was found, but unfortunately  in SC, as of yet, there is not a hate crime statue for local authorities to investigate a charge, so any hate crime charges would have to come from FBI or another federal agency," Sheriff Tolson said. 

Tolson said Lester and Neal were dating at the time of the incident, but neither suspect has any known relationship to the Pak family. 

"I came to terms-- for me personally-- to forgive them for what they did," Pak said. "I kept praying about it, and I had to say 'let go and let God take care of the situation." 

Lester had a bond hearing at 1:00 p.m. today, Neal has yet to have a bond hearing. 

"We're just so grateful for all of the detectives and all of the support we've gotten to this point where justice can be served," Pak said.