A Willard arsonist who was diagnosed mentally incompetent years ago pleaded guilty recently.
Former Plymouth resident Christopher A. Barber, 19, most recently of Shelby, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of arson. The fourth-degree felony is punishable by six to 18 months behind bars.
Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway told Barber that since he doesn't have a prior conviction, he won't face a prison term and he likely will be placed on probation. However, the defendant's conviction requires him to be registered on a state arsonist list.
Conway, as is standard in all plea hearings, asked Barber if he ever had been ruled or diagnosed mentally incompetent. Barber indicated that was the case, but he and his attorney weren't able to recall when it happened.
"We've been doing this since about the fourth grade," Barber's mother told the judge.
Huron County Public Defender David Longo said he ran the plea deal "by his mother," noting that "due to special circumstances," he believed it was important to have the family involved in the process. Longo also said he thinks the plea is an appropriate resolution to the case.
In early June, Conway ruled Barber wasn't allowed to enter a plea of "not guilty by reason of insanity." By that time, the defendant had undergone two competency evaluations.
Barber originally was indicted on aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, which is punishable by three to 11 years in prison.
The Willard Police Department investigated the June 25, 2013 apartment fire on Rae Court. Attorneys said Barber intentionally set fire to a balled-up piece of paper, put it under a mattress and later admitted to the crime to an investigator with state fire marshal's office.
"It did cause a fire, but nobody was hurt," Longo said.
A cat died in the blaze that caused about $100,000 worth of damage.
Barber, who will be sentenced Aug. 27, must post a $100,000 bond before being released from the Huron County Jail.
"He has been in jail a very long time," Longo said.