SAN DIEGO (AP) — A girl suspected of starting the most destructive of nearly a dozen wildfires that ripped through Southern California in May was ordered Wednesday to be psychologically evaluated to determine if she is fit to stand trial.
The girl appeared in juvenile court for a brief hearing stemming from allegations that she intentionally started the Cocos Fire, which destroyed 36 homes and one business north of San Diego. She was charged July 9 with four felony counts of arson and one misdemeanor count of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape from one’s control.
Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz ordered that the girl observe a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew while she lives with her parents and he agreed with her attorney that she should remain in therapy. The attorney, Ryan McGlinn, told the judge that she wouldn’t leave the house without her parents.
The girl, who wore a striped sweater and had long blonde hair, wished the judge good morning but said nothing else in court. After the hearing, she turned expressionless to the small audience, which included her parents seated in the front row.
The judge allowed that the girl’s first name be published, but The Associated Press generally does not identify juvenile suspects. Her age was not revealed.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said earlier this month that the suspect was not linked to any other fires. It didn’t describe what led investigators to her but said they sifted through many tips and photos provided by the public.
The girl was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, but the judge halted proceedings until Aug. 20 to allow time for the psychological evaluation. Two felony counts were for arson of an inhabited structure or property in which multiple structures were burned and two felony counts were for arson of a structure or forest land in a dangerous manner.
Her attorney declined to comment after the hearing.
The Cocos Fire began in a brush-lined canyon in suburban San Marcos and spread very quickly from hot, dry winds as firefighters battled other blazes in the region.