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Girl Accused Of Arson In Cocos Fire To Undergo Mental Exam

A large plume of white and black smoke rises from a hillside brush fire in Sa...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: A large plume of white and black smoke rises from a hillside brush fire in San Marcos.

A Juvenile Court judge on Wednesday ordered a mental competency evaluation for a girl accused of setting a San Marcos-area wildfire in May that blackened nearly 2,000 acres and destroyed 40 structures, most of them homes.

"Today there was a very brief hearing ... in front of Judge (Aaron) Katz, which addressed one count filed against a minor, and her attorney requested a mental competency evaluation," Deputy District Attorney Shawnalyse Ochoa said outside the San Diego court.

The judge granted the defense attorney's request and ordered the girl, whose name and age were not released, to continue therapy and placed her under a curfew between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"The proceedings are hereby suspended until the minor is found competent," Katz said in court.

A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 20 to evaluate the results of the mental competency evaluation.

Ochoa said the charges the girl faces are very serious and that a mental competency evaluation would be administered for two reasons.

"(The) mental competency process is part of the Juvenile (Court) process under two different factual circumstances," Ochoa said. "It can be when a minor is under the age of 14, and/or when there is mental or physical comprehension (or) educational issues that may affect the minor understanding the proceedings or assisting their counsel."

Ochoa did not say which circumstance applied in the girl's case.

She is accused of igniting the Cocos fire on the afternoon of May 14. Authorities announced her arrest on July 9.

The blaze was one of a spate of more than a dozen wildfires that erupted in the San Diego area in critically hot, dry and windy conditions and raged for days, burning down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes. Several apartments and commercial structures also were destroyed.

Investigators have found no evidence linking the suspect in the Cocos fire to any of the other blazes, sheriff's officials said.

During the spring firestorm, flames scorching tens of thousands of acres of brush across the county forced the evacuation of the Cal State San Marcos campus and temporarily closed numerous schools and businesses.

Damage to private property was estimated at $29.8 million. Officials set the costs of extinguishing the wildfires at $27.9 million.

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