A former Marine is behind bars in Hampton County, after allegedly setting two house fires, one when his ex-girlfriend and her 2-year-old daughter were inside. Jessie Matthew Gibbens, 24, faces multiple charges, to include Attempted Murder of a Minor and Burglary.
Hampton County Sheriff’s Office investigators say Gibbens broke into the Early Branch house on Old Salkehatchie Highway around 12 a.m. on Sunday. Gibbens’ ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend, and her baby were sleeping there. The woman and man told deputies Gibbens assaulted them with a rifle, but left before deputies could arrive.
“We think the rifle was a part of the suspect gaining entry, and to have more control over the scene as he was actually assaulting the victims,” Sheriff T.C. Smalls says.
They say Gibbens returned around 5 a.m., allegedly setting fire to the house.
“The victim, along with a male friend, [were] awakened by the smell of gas in the residence,” Smalls says, “at that time, the suspect [had] entered the residence. He was in the home, coming down the hallway.”
The woman and man were able to escape to a neighbor’s house and call 911, as Gibbens left. When the mother realized the child was still inside, she broke-in the window to rescue her.
“Her quick thinking was not to enter the house, but to break the glass, bust out the glass and went in to retrieve the child,” Smalls says.
The child was not injured. The woman and man were transported to Hampton Regional Medical Center for treatment of injuries, and have since been released.
At about 6 a.m. in Yemassee, there was a structure fire on Yemassee Highway, believed to be arson. Police are investigating, but they believe it to be linked to Gibbens as well. Police say it was the house where his ex-girlfriend was in the process of relocating from.
Gibbens was later arrested back at Parris Island by Military Police, and sent back to the Hampton County Detention Center.
“We were just blessed that no lives were lost,” Smalls says.
Smalls says this is one example of how domestic violence can escalate quickly.
“We’re thinking that [with] him gaining more control over the environment, this is a CDV [Criminal Domestic Violence] that I would rate, if I would rate them, which all of them [are] bad in this county, it would be among the top ones that we investigate,” he says.
There was a bond hearing for Gibbens late Tuesday afternoon in Hampton. Investigators expected arson and assault charges to follow.