Pharmacist scheduled to go on trial in Columbia, Ellicott City arsons McManus undergoing psychiatric evaluation

September 20, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The trial for a Baltimore County man accused of setting fires at two stores in The Mall in Columbia, in historic Ellicott City, and at Dorsey Hall Mansion is scheduled for tomorrow, but may be postponed.

James McManus, 33, of Catonsville, is to stand trial on arson charges for six fires set in March. He also faces three arson counts in Baltimore County in a case scheduled for trial next month.

The fires did not cause any injuries or major damage, but news of the arsonist caused a wave of outcry among residents and merchants.

Mr. McManus, a pharmacist at a Columbia drug store, has filed a plea of not criminally responsible and a notice of incompetence to stand trial, according to documents in Howard County Circuit Court.

The defendant is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, defense attorney Clarke Ahlers of Columbia said.

Assistant State's Attorney Joseph Murtha said he expects the trial to be postponed because of another case he is handling.

He added that the evaluation of Mr. McManus has not been finished.

A "mini-evaluation" has been filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court, but the report has been sealed from the public by Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe.

Mr. McManus is accused of setting fire to a man's bathrobe in the Sears store at The Mall in Columbia on March 3.

He also is charged with setting the Sears building on fire.

The defendant is charged with setting fire to a chair at the Antique Depot in the 3700 block of Maryland Ave. in Ellicott City on March 11. He also is charged with setting the shop building ablaze.

He is charged with setting fire to a shed in the 10500 block of Vista Road in Columbia on March 1 and to the Dorsey Hall Mansion in the 5100 Dorsey Hall Road in Columbia on March 7.

Mr. McManus also is charged with two counts of theft for allegedly taking the credit card of a drug store customer and using it to buy a $1,700 diamond pendant at the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Jewelers at the The Mall in Columbia on Aug. 23, 1991.

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