Crime & Courts

Alleged Columbia arsonist has alter ego as online rapper. He’s facing new charges

Fire that damaged 2 Columbia homes was intentionally set, leaders say

A fire that damaged two homes near the University of South Carolina Tuesday morning is being investigated as arson. Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and Police Chief Skip Holbrook discuss.
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A fire that damaged two homes near the University of South Carolina Tuesday morning is being investigated as arson. Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and Police Chief Skip Holbrook discuss.

Authorities dropped the hammer on “Dank Frank.”

“Dank Frank” is the online rap moniker for Frank John Wilberding, the 21-year-old man suspected of setting three fires near the University of South Carolina campus. Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife, Peggy, own two of the properties that Wilberding is accused of burning.

Thursday, police charged Wilberding with 10 counts of first-degree assault and battery in connection with the fires. The 10 assault victims were inside the two homes owned by McMaster when they were set on fire. Nobody was injured.

Wilberding already faced a trio of second-degree arson charges and one for possession of a drug. At a Thursday hearing for Wilberding, a judge denied him bond on the three arson charges, assuring the SoundCloud rapper would stay in a cell until the case against him is finished. The judge also set a $100,000 bond for the assault charges, and $2,000 bond on the drug possession charge. He could be sentenced to 175 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

Victims who lost their residences in the fires attended Wilberding’s hearing. Attorney Lori Murray is defending Wilberding.

Wilberding, under the pseudonym “Dank Frank,” released 27 songs on the popular user-uploaded music streaming service SoundCloud. Between 2017 and June 2018, Wilberding put out songs with titles like “I Be Sellin Weed,” “Codeine & Cocaine,” “4 Loko 2 Go” and “The 843 Boyz.” The album art of three of the songs feature pills and purple cough syrup, or “purp,” often associated with recreational prescription codeine use. Other graphics appear to show “Dank Frank” holding a bundle of cash and smoking from a bong, which is typically used for marijuana.

The lyrics talk about selling drugs and drug use, often.

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From SoundCloud

Wilberding’s Twitter account also features references to selling and partaking in illicit substances.

“Selling them bars in bulk . . . ,” he wrote in October 2018 alongside an image of what looks like Alprazolam, a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and depression that is illicitly used for the malaise the drug induces.

When police detained Wilberding on Tuesday, he allegedly had Xanax on him.

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From Twitter

He posted images claiming to depict ecstasy pills as well as a photo of Zolpidem and Clonazepam prescription bottles with what looks like the medication. Those drugs are also used recreationally. With that photo, he wrote, “Drugzzzz.”

In his song “Shadow in the Night,” Wilberding raps, “I’ve been seeing shadows in the night“ over and over.

“I’ve been creeping in the night,” he says. “Getting super high hope I don’t die. I think I fried my mind. Think I’m lost in this sky. I think I’m lost and I’m lost. I think I’m lost but I’m sauced.”

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Frank John Wilberding has been charged with arson, according to the Columbia Police Department. Columbia Police Department

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.
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