Pa. man charged in arson ruled incompetent

April 05, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - A man charged with attempted homicide and arson was ruled incompetent to stand trial during a Thursday competency hearing before Judge Douglas Herman in Franklin County (Pa.) Court.

Dr. John Hume, a forensic psychiatrist, testified at the hearing that Laverne Z. Zimmerman has a mental disorder that prevents him from being able to assist in his own defense. Herman ordered Zimmerman to undergo 60 days of in-patient treatment at Mayview State Hospital "as soon as a bed is available."

Zimmerman, 22, of Mainesville Road, Shippensburg, Pa., was charged with setting an Aug. 31 fire at the Olde Scotland Road home of Reuben and Minerva Oberhotzer in Southampton Township, Pennsylvania State Police said. No one was seriously injured in the fire, police said.

Prior hospitalization

Zimmerman was hospitalized for more than three months in late 2006 and sought outpatient treatment several times in 2007, Hume testified. The psychiatrist testified he examined Zimmerman while he was incarcerated Dec. 20 and again before Thursday's hearing.


Hume testified that Zimmerman does not completely understand the consequences if he were to be convicted and does not fully comprehend what would occur in a jury trial. That lack of understanding, Hume testified, was due primarily to his mental illness, not a lack of formal education.

Zimmerman completed eighth grade, which is standard in the Amish community of which he is a part, Hume testified.

Public Defender Michael Toms asked Herman to find Zimmerman not competent and to order the involuntary treatment under Pennsylvania's Mental Procedures Act. The issue of his competency will be re-examined after the 60 days, he said.

Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom said the commonwealth had no objections to the defense request.

A conviction for attempted homicide carries a maximum sentence of 20 or 40 years, depending on whether a jury determines the act resulted in serious bodily injury, Krom said.

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