Ronald J. Hunter, who allegedly tried to blow up his home while awaiting sentencing for attempted arson, has been found mentally competent to stand trial for an alleged assault on his estranged wife, a judge said Wednesday.
After telling Hunter that the six-month jail term he promised him March 16 after he pleaded guilty to felony attempted arson was negated by his April 23 assault on his estranged wife, Erie County Judge Timothy J. Drury said court-ordered testing found him legally competent. Hunter tried to burn down his family's Texas Street home in December to cover up the fact that he sold his children's Christmas presents to buy cocaine, authorities said.
Hunter was warned by Drury that he now faces a possible seven-year prison term for the December incident and a possible 25-year prison term for the assault.
Suggesting he may have to recuse himself from the assault case because it also involves a felony contempt-of-court charge linked to Hunter's violating an order to stay away from his wife, Drury delayed proceedings in both cases for two weeks.
Drury said two court-appointed psychologists have found Hunter "is not an incapacitated person" and that he can intelligently assist in his own defense.
On April 21, when Drury allowed Hunter to leave jail after he pleaded guilty to the Dec. 23 attempted arson, the judge ordered him to stay away from his wife, Leah.
Two days after Hunter got out of jail, there was a first aid call to the Hunter house where Mrs. Hunter was found beaten.
After a 75-minute standoff, Hunter turned on the gas stove and was playing with a cigarette lighter as police forced him out of the house.