Jeannette man ruled competent to stand trial in fatal fire case |

Jeannette man ruled competent to stand trial in fatal fire case

Renatta Signorini
Brian Eric Rendon arrives at his preliminary hearing escorted by Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputies on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. He is accused of setting a fire in Jeannette that killed a woman and injured her granddaughter.

A man is competent to stand trial on homicide and arson charges in connection with a fatal fire last year in Jeannette that killed an elderly woman, a judge ruled Monday.

Brian Eric Rendon, 34, of Jeannette needed some extra help and explanation to understand the charges and trial process, defense attorney Jack Manderino said.

“I believe he does have a much better understanding,” Manderino said, adding he plans to discuss the case more with Rendon.

Rendon is accused of setting an April 9, 2018, blaze that destroyed several row homes on South Seventh Street in Jeannette. Shirley Kocherans, 87, was found dead in her apartment, and her granddaughter was injured.

About a dozen people were left homeless.

Authorities believe Rendon started the blaze on the back porch. They connected him to the fire through surveillance video taken from an alley near the row houses.

He is accused of setting a couch on fire two days earlier outside of his Railroad Street home.

Rendon was ruled incompetent to stand trial in May after an evaluation was ordered by a judge. That evaluation determined he couldn’t adequately describe the charges or understand a potential sentence he could face if convicted.

A report issued June 11 after another evaluation found Rendon could grasp the situation if given the opportunity to discuss it with his attorney, Manderino said. He plans to have a psychiatric evaluation to determine if the defendant has cognitive deficiencies.

“This evaluation didn’t see evidence of psychosis, but it didn’t do an intelligence or personality test,” Manderino said.

He plans to file a motion to try the two cases separately.

Trial is tentatively scheduled for September.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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