Accused arsonist pleads insanity

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Steven Taylor Rutherford, 48, of Banning, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to 13 counts of arson. Trial start still is planned for Aug. 4.

Charges were filed in February accusing Rutherford of starting 13 fires in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The fires occurred between September 2011 and June 2013.

The court appointed a medical examiner to evaluate Rutherford’s claims of incapability. A written report based on the examination is expected by July 21.

Any report on the examination of a defendant claiming insanity has to include the psychological history of the defendant, the facts surrounding the commission of the acts forming the basis for the charges, and the present psychological or psychiatric symptoms of the defendant. Also, any history of substance abuse by the defendant must be included as any other credible material relevant to the defendant’s mental state on the day the crime occurred.

Rutherford was arrested on June 28, 2013, after a lengthy investigation by Cal Fire arson investigators. He was connected to the series of arson fires through law enforcement and commercial business surveillance cameras, as well as lawfully placed GPS trackers on his vehicles.

He has a prior arson conviction for setting a fire in Riverside County in 1989.

 

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