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YOUNGSTOWN Defendant awaits judge's decision



Published: Fri, August 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Marvin Maxwell said an invisible 'messiah' tried to kill him by torching some toilet paper.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A judge will decide whether Marvin Maxwell should go to prison or to a psychiatric hospital for setting fire to a hospital restroom.

Maxwell, 44, of West Dewey Avenue, is charged with one count of aggravated arson for a fire that caused some $200,000 damage at St. Elizabeth Health Center in February 2001.

He had a trial Thursday before Judge Robert Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Defense attorney Douglas B. Taylor submitted reports from two psychiatric examinations that he said show that Maxwell was insane at the time of the fire. He's asked that Maxwell be found innocent by reason of insanity.

Judge Lisotto took the matter under advisement.

What happened

Witnesses said they saw smoke and water pouring out from under the door of a men's restroom on the hospital's third floor. When a security guard kicked open the door, Maxwell was standing inside the restroom, being soaked by the fire-suppression sprinklers.

"He was just standing like a statue," said Martha J. Thullen, whose billing office was just across the hall from the restroom. She was the one who alerted security officers because water from the restroom was flowing into her office.

Robert Plak of the hospital's police department and Lt. Kevin Johnson of the Youngstown Fire Department said Maxwell denied setting the fire.

Maxwell told them he was sitting on a commode in the restroom when a transparent "messiah" appeared in front of him, told him he was going to die and caused the toilet paper to catch on fire.

Smoke from the fire caused the sprinklers to go off, which caused the flooding.

During questioning by Robert Andrews, an assistant prosecutor, Johnson said he later found a small butane cigarette lighter hidden in one of Maxwell's shoes. He believes that's what was used to set the fire.

Plak said ceilings and computers in second-floor offices, below the fire scene, sustained heavy water damage.

bjackson@vindy.com




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