WENATCHEE — The man who confessed to setting the devastating 2015 Sleepy Hollow Fire was sent back into care for mental illness Wednesday, with a judge ordering involuntary medication if need be.
It's the third time Jeremy J. Kendall, 39, has been ordered into treatment to restore his competency to stand trial. First charged almost two years ago with first-degree arson, he has never been arraigned because a delusional disorder prevents him from understanding his situation or assisting in his defense.
The order from Chelan County Superior Court Judge Lesley Allan sends Kendall back to Eastern State Hospital, where she'll allow him to be be given medication against his will as psychiatrists attempt to improve his condition. After 180 days, he'll be assessed for his readiness to participate in the case.
The 2,950-acre Sleepy Hollow Fire broke out June 28, 2015, destroying 30 foothills homes and a handful of warehouse properties in Wenatchee's industrial zone. Investigators believed the fire to be human-caused, but had no suspects in the case until Kendall walked unbidden into the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in March 2016 and told deputies he set the wildfire, torching dry grass with a Bic lighter along Sleepy Hollow Road.
When speaking to deputies, Kendall said he had been the subject of mind control efforts by the police and state government, specifically the Department of Health. Caregivers at Eastern State found that Kendall's continuing delusional beliefs would interfere with his understanding of court proceedings against him.
The first case against Kendall was dismissed in December 2016, after multiple psychiatric assessments and medical efforts failed to stabilize him. In that case too, Allan authorized Eastern State staff to medicate Kendall if he was unwilling to take prescribed medications on his own.
Kendall remained at Eastern State after the dismissal under a civil commitment. A June 2017 assessment judged that Kendall was specifically suffering from schizophrenia, and believed the actions he took were acts of self-defense against the illusory mind-control efforts. While Kendall behaved well while in institutional care, that assessment found he was "a very high risk for engaging in similar behavior if he were to be discharged," according to a court memo filed in early February by Chelan County Prosecutor Douglas Shae.
Shae brought a new charge of first-degree arson last August, and Kendall was again ordered to undergo assessment and treatment at Eastern State.
A report by authored last Seattle psychologist Kenneth Muscatel after a month of assessment in late 2017 found that while Kendall might be technically competent, he insists that his delusions are real, and therefore "is not able to make a rationally competent decision in preparing his own defense." Kendall has been unwilling to consider a plea of guilty by reason of insanity.
Jefferson Robbins: 664-7123