AUGUSTA — A South China man pleaded not criminally responsible Tuesday morning to a charge of arson in connection with his allegedly having set his home ablaze April 11, destroying it.

Justice Michaela Murphy accepted the plea from Jason Adam Woods, 37, after hearing the evidence from the prosecutor and reading a recommendation from a psychologist who evaluated Woods. Tuesday’s hearing was held at the Capital Judicial Center.

The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Francis Griffin, told the judge that a neighbor indicated Woods had been behaving erratically and that he had made several odd statements.

“My house is invincible,” Griffin said, quoting Woods’ words from an investigator’s report. “I will burn it and live in it.”

Woods then told the neighbor that his house was burning. Griffin said the neighbor reported that Woods’ behavior had a “flat affect” at the time. The neighbor reported the fire about 9:30 p.m. that day, and firefighters were at the scene until about midnight.

Woods was taken into protective custody at the scene of the fire at the request of the fire chief because of reports of irrational behavior and because he was apparently physically abusive to the firefighters.

Attorney Lisa Whittier, who represented Woods, agreed that if the state presented its evidence, it could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Woods started the blaze.

An investigator with the Office of the State Fire Marshal determined that the fire began in the kitchen of the mobile home at 220 Western Ridge Road.

Murphy also was told the fire was not set to get money.

She concluded after hearing the evidence, “Mr. Woods could not, on the date in question, appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.”

She told Woods that she understood he was very ill around the date of the fire.

Murphy ordered Woods put into the Department of Health and Human Services’ custody and sent him to Riverview Psychiatric Center.

She also said she could not assure him how long he would be held in state custody.

Whittier said she had advised Woods of his right to petition the court every six months to seek restoration of some privileges.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams


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