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Woman who allegedly set fire to undergo evaluation

January 05, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

An 18-year-old Clear Spring woman pleaded not criminally responsible Thursday to charges she set fire to a historic Williamsport building in August 2006.

The case against Lauren Alexandria France was continued Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court pending the completion of a psychological evaluation that was ordered to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

France, whose address is listed in charging documents as 11823 Orebank Road, is charged with second-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning, second-degree malicious burning and other offenses in the Aug. 30, 2006, fire at 6 Springfield Lane, the former home of the town's founder.

The state fire marshal said the fire caused about $150,000 in damages.

France is free on an unsecured personal $80,000 bond.

According to France's written plea filed Thursday, she contends she had a "mental disorder" at the time of the fire and, because of that disorder, "lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of that conduct and/or to conform (her) conduct to the requirements of law."

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On Thursday, France appeared in Circuit Court, but did not speak.

Her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Carl Creeden, told Circuit Judge John H. McDowell that France is undergoing a psychological evaluation to determine if she was criminally responsible for the alleged actions and if she is competent to stand trial.

Creeden said France has no prior criminal record, and requested her trial be delayed pending completion of the evaluation. McDowell granted the motion.

Creeden told McDowell he anticipates no further continuances in the case. A scheduled motions hearing in December was called off after Creeden withdrew France's motion for a suppression hearing.

According to court documents, McDowell ordered that if France is found not criminally responsible or incompetent by a psychologist, a hearing will be held to determine what type of commitment is needed for further mental health evaluation.

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