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YOUNGSTOWN Judge finds man insane in hospital arson case



Published: Wed, August 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Youngstown man will be sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment for schizophrenia.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A city man who set fire to some toilet paper in a hospital restroom, then stood by while a sprinkler system drenched him, was insane at the time.

That's the ruling handed down by Judge Robert Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Marvin Maxwell, 44, of West Dewey Avenue was tried last week on a charge of aggravated arson. His lawyer, Douglas B. Taylor, opted against using a jury and instead asked Judge Lisotto to decide the case.

During the trial, Taylor presented reports from two court-ordered psychiatric examinations, both of which indicated Maxwell was insane at the time of the fire. Judge Lisotto agreed and found Maxwell innocent by reason of insanity.

"Based on the evidence, I think that was about the only decision he could have made," said Robert Andrews, an assistant county prosecutor.

The finding means Maxwell will be sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment. A hearing will be scheduled to determine where he'll be sent.

What happened

Maxwell told authorities he was sitting on a commode in a third-floor men's restroom at St. Elizabeth Health Center in February 2001 when the "messiah" appeared in front of him, told him he was going to die and set the toilet paper on fire.

But fire investigators believe Maxwell set the fire himself, using a small butane lighter that was later found stashed in one of his shoes.

A hospital employee summoned a security guard after she noticed water and smoke pouring from under the restroom door. The guard kicked open the door and found Maxwell standing in the restroom, getting drenched by the fire-suppression sprinklers.

Taylor said that alone was evidence of Maxwell's mental state.

"What kind of a person starts a fire and then stands right there in the bathroom getting soaking wet?" he said.

Court documents say Maxwell was suffering from schizophrenia and was "acutely and grossly psychotic" at the time he set the fire.

Maxwell is on medication to treat the condition, but doesn't always take it, Taylor said. When he goes off the medicine he becomes unstable and gets into trouble.

Ceilings on the hospital's second floor, below the restroom, collapsed and computers were heavily damaged by water used to put out the fire. Loss was estimated at $200,000.




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