ST. GEORGE – An Arizona man accused of arson was ruled mentally incompetent to stand court proceedings Tuesday by Fifth District Judge Eric Ludlow.
John Gerald Wilson Goss, 41, of Phoenix, was charged with first-degree aggravated arson after allegedly setting fire to a room at the St. George Claridge Inn on Bluff Street in July.
Goss was found mentally incompetent by two mental health experts after undergoing two separate mental evaluations. The results of their evaluations were filed on Oct. 10, according to court documents. A motion was made in August for Goss to undergo the evaluations and was subsequently approved by Fifth District Judge Eric Ludlow.
The defense told the court it had not yet received copies of the mental evaluations, a matter that was quickly rectified by the prosecution sharing copies it had.
Having found Goss to be mentally incompetent to continue with court proceedings, Ludlow ordered the defendant be sent to the Utah State Hospital for the time being.
A review hearing is set for Nov. 25.
Goss was arrested on July 5 during an investigation into a possible arson at the Claridge Inn on Bluff Street. The St. George Fire Department responded to the report of a fire in room 224 at the motel. Guests staying in the room next door began to smell smoke and alerted hotel staff.
Firefighters extinguished a smoldering fire in the room and determined they had come across signs of possible criminal activity in the room. At that point, the investigation into the incident was handed over to the St. George Police Department.
Investigators found the room in a state of disarray. According to a probable cause statement by St. George Police Officer Scott Cleveland, there were various spots in the room that appeared to have been intentionally set ablaze prior to the Fire Department’s arrival. Burned matches and cigarettes were found on the floor and pieces of paper and tin foil were shoved into electrical sockets. The smoke detector in the room had also apparently been ripped off the wall and disabled.
Goss was listed as the guest renting the room and police found him soon after. Cleveland spoke to Goss about the incident at the hotel. Goss told the officer that he hadn’t set any fires in the room, yet one may have ignited by accident. According to Cleveland’s report, Goss also said he accidentally set a trash can on fire.
As the fire set in the hotel room had the potential to cause serious harm to life and property – the room next to Goss’ was noted to be occupied at the time of the fire – Goss was charged with first-degree felony aggravated arson.
A preliminary estimate to damage done to the Claridge Inn was estimated at around $10,000.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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