Mental Exam Ordered for Wildfire Suspect

Mental Exam Ordered for Wildfire Suspect

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A homeless Salt Lake City man accused of starting the Farmington Canyon wildfire has been ordered sent to a federal prison in Los Angeles for a mental evaluation.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Samuel Alba ordered the 45-day evaluation after entering an innocent plea in behalf of Heinz Josef Bruhl, 33, on Thursday.

Defense attorney Randy Ludlow told the judge he did not believe his client was mentally capable of entering a plea at this time.

Alba said he is ordering the evaluation because he was concerned about Bruhl's mental history and mental capacity.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Vincent said his office and the defense attorney jointly requested the evaluation because they want to clear up any issues of mental competency and insanity.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Bruhl Wednesday, charging him with felony malicious destruction of Unites States property by fire, and a felony charge of setting fire to timber, underbrush, grass and other inflammable materials upon U.S. lands. The first charge carries a mandatory sentence of five to 20 years in prison and the second carries a mandatory sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine.

Those charges stem from the fire that Bruhl is charged with starting July 10. The blaze burned over 1,936 acres and cost $1.5 million.

A police deposition said Bruhl "started the fire because he wanted to go to prison so that he would have a place to live. Bruhl indicated to law enforcement that he was mad at society because he was unemployed, homeless and had been kicked out of the Army."

Relatives said Bruhl suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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