/ Modified mar 14, 2024 10:59 a.m.

Man facing hate crime charges for burning of two Douglas churches denies second competency evaluation

The judge will have the same psychologist attempt to evaluate Eric Ridenour again

St Stephens Episcopal Church St. Stephen's Episcopal Church was extensively damaged by a fire that authorities say was intentionally started Monday.
Summer Hom, AZPM

A federal judge is still trying to get answers about the mental fitness of the suspect in a federal arson and hate crime case from Douglas.

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Rash put his decision regarding the competency of Eric Ridenour to stand trial on hold.

Ridenour is accused of setting two churches in Douglas on fire last year and was charged with hate crimes.

The court was supposed to receive a second opinion and a competency evaluation on Ridenour’s fitness to stand trial from Psychologist Dr. Richard Samuels in February.

But in a letter submitted to the court on March 8, Dr. Samuels wrote that upon entering the jail to interview Ridenour, he was informed that he was told "that Mr. Ridenour had declined the meeting. After waiting, I was again informed of additional attempts to convince Mr. Ridenour to undergo the evaluation, but he declined them."

After the conclusion of a closed meeting, the judge termed the situation as a misunderstanding that kept the evaluation from happening.

The judge has ordered another evaluation by the same psychologist and set another status hearing on April 12th.

Ridenour is defending himself in the case, and said during Tuesday's hearing that "I declined counsel," and added, "My counsel is the Lord."

"I would just like to say I'm not trying to hide the fact that I serve my Lord, Jesus Christ," Ridenour said during Tuesday's court proceeding.

The judge has assigned an attorney as advisory counsel to consult with Ridenour in his defense.

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