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Amish man charged in 2007 arson ruled competent for trial

August 06, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An Amish man charged with attempted homicide and arson in 2007 in Franklin County is now competent to stand trial in Franklin County Court.

Laverne Z. Zimmerman, 22, of Shippensburg, Pa., was ruled incompetent as a result of an April hearing before Judge Douglas Herman. Herman ordered Zimmerman to undergo 60 days of in-patient treatment at Mayview State Hospital once a bed was available.

On Tuesday in Central Court, Public Defender Michael Toms waived a preliminary hearing for Zimmerman, whose mandatory arraignment was scheduled for Sept. 17.

"The competency issue has been resolved," Toms said.

Zimmerman had been charged by Pennsylvania State Police with setting fire to the Olde Scotland Road home of Reuben and Minerva Oberhotzer on Aug. 31, 2006, according to court records. No one was seriously injured in the fire, police said.

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At the April competency hearing, a forensic psychiatrist, Dr. John Hume, testified that Zimmerman was unable to assist in his own defense and did not understand the consequences if he were to be convicted of the charges. That lack of understanding was due primarily to a mental illness, not a lack of education, Hume testified.

Zimmerman completed the eighth grade, which is standard in the Amish community, Hume testified in April.

Toms had asked the court to order involuntary treatment for Zimmerman under Pennsylvania's Mental Procedures Act. Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom did not object to the request.

"The victims are very concerned that he receive treatment," Krom said Tuesday.

Since he was charged, Zimmerman's preliminary hearing date had been continued several times, according to court records.

In Pennsylvania, attempted homicide carries a maximum sentence of 20 or 40 years, depending on whether a jury determines the act resulted in serious bodily injury.

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