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Man charged in panic case pleads not guilty by reason of insanity

YOUNGSTOWN — A Struthers man charged with attempted aggravated arson and other offenses, accused of trying to smoke in his house in July while knowing there was a large amount of natural gas present, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Craig Cook, 53, of Spring Street, entered the plea during his arraignment Wednesday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. A filing by his attorney asks that an evaluation of his mental condition be done. Cook is also charged with inducing panic and obstructing official business.

An ambulance crew was called to the house, where police reports state responders smelled a strong odor of natural gas.

When officers confronted Cook in his bedroom, he demanded that officers allow him to smoke. In a struggle, Cook lunged for a cigarette and lighter, reports state, and Cook was pulled out of the house.

His wife, Miriam Cook, 55, pleaded guilty earlier to inducing panic in the same incident and has been accepted into the common pleas court’s mental health court.

Mental health court allows individuals charged with a crime that stems from mental-health issues to have their charges dismissed if they successfully complete the program.

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