Judge says Jeannette man not competent to stand trial in fatal fire case
A man charged with murder in connection with a deadly fire last year that killed an 87-year-old Jeannette woman is not competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio said a psychological evaluation conducted last month determined Brian Eric Rendon did not understand the charges against him related to allegations he set the April 9, 2018 blaze that destroyed a cluster of row homes on South Seventh Street. Shirley Kocherans was found dead in her apartment. Eleven other residents were left homeless.
Rendon, 34, of Jeannette, was charged with criminal homicide, second-degree murder, arson and 14 other charges in connection with the fire.
Police said Rendon confessed to setting the fatal fire and told investigators he used a lighter and a deodorant can to ignite a porch between two homes.
Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro said he will not challenge Rendon’s mental health evaluation, which found he cannot adequately describe the charges or understand what potential sentence he could face if convicted.
The evaluation was ordered earlier this year by Judge Tim Krieger, who is presiding over another arson case against Rendon. In that case prosecutors contend Rendon set a couch on fire outside his Railroad Street home two days before the fatal blaze.
Both arson cases have been consolidated into one prosecution.
Assistant Public Defender Jack Mandarino said he will seek another mental health evaluation for Rendon to help prepare his defense should the case go to trial.
No trial date has been set and Bilik-DeFazio said Rendon will appear before her in about three months when the issue of his competency will again be addressed.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .