Pittsfield arson suspect found not competent to stand trial, will be committed to state hospital

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PITTSFIELD — The city man accused of setting a string of fires late last summer has been determined to be not competent to stand trial and will be committed to a state hospital pending further evaluation.

Phillip Jordan, 59, remains held without the right to bail after being found dangerous earlier this year.

He was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, the results of which determined that, at this point, he is not competent.

Jordan was arrested in Vermont on Sept. 23 while apparently trying to flee to Canada a day after setting the fires. He is charged with four counts of arson.

He was held on a charge of being a fugitive from justice in Vermont for months while the extradition process played out. He was eventually returned to Massachusetts on a governor's warrant, and was arraigned in January in Central Berkshire District Court on the arson charges.

Attorney Collin Keefe, who represents Jordan in his criminal case, said while his client might disagree with the doctor's finding of incompetency, he was not challenging the recommendation that he be committed for up to six months at Bridgewater State Hospital.

The recommendation was agreed upon between Keefe, attorney Mark Gillis, who represents Jordan in his competency matters, and Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Joseph Brava, who said the commitment was, "the proper course of action."

Judge Mark Mason, who presided over the brief hearing in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday, set a date of Nov. 14 to revisit the competency issue.

Another pretrial hearing was set for early July, at the expiration of 120 days under which Jordan has been held without the right to bail, to determine next steps in that matter.

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Jordan is suspected of setting four fires in rapid succession on Sept. 22.

The first was reported on Appleton Avenue at 6:42 p.m., according to court documents. Police were made aware that Jordan lived at that address, and had reportedly called a family member that morning threatening to burn down his house.

About 15 minutes later, a second fire was reported on Fort Hill Avenue. A family member of Jordan's lived at that address and told police he went outside the house when he heard a car in the driveway.

About 7:05 p.m., a third fire was reported at the Ridge Avenue home of another family member, and about 30 minutes later another fire was reported, on Brown Street, in which Jordan is also a suspect.

The next day, a border patrol agent operating in Highgate Springs, Vt., found Jordan's car parked on the side of the road.

He found Jordan nearby — wearing no pants — yelling that he needed to get to Canada and was sick from poisoning by the government, according to court files.

Jordan tried to flee in his car, and allegedly threw a gun and a blowtorch out the window. He was apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Highgate Port of Entry into Canada.

A conviction on a charge of arson of a dwelling carries a penalty of up to 20 years in state prison.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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