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Archive for Thursday, August 22, 1996

ALLEGED ARSON, KIDNAPPING SUSPECT ENTERS PLEA, BOUND OVER FOR TRIAL

August 22, 1996

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A man accused of threatening to set his wife on fire was deemed competent to stand trial, and will do so Nov. 12.

A Baldwin man who allegedly doused his ex-wife with gasoline and threatened to set her on fire will likely face a jury trial in November.

During an arraignment Wednesday, Richard Hedges, 39, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted aggravated arson, aggravated burglary and kidnapping. Judge Michael Malone set Hedges' trial for 9 a.m. Nov. 12.

Hedges' attorney, Craig Stancliffe, had no comment on the case.

Hedges was found competent to stand trial after a mental evaluation, which was completed earlier this month.

A string of previous domestic violence reports involving Hedges and his ex-wife spurred the evaluation. As early as 1994, she believed Hedges would try to kill her, court records show.

Hedges' ex-wife filed for emergency divorce in February 1995, and had a permanent restraining order against him when he burst into her home the night of July 14.

He was reportedly upset that he was not able to spend time with his 4-year-old son, who was celebrating a birthday. Police said he poured gasoline from small canisters on his ex-wife and throughout the interior of her house -- in the 1000 block of East 19th.

Holding a cigarette lighter, he threatened to set the house and his ex-wife on fire, according to police reports. Hedges surrendered to police about 30 minutes later.

It was at least the third incident of reported violence involving Hedges and his ex-wife.

Prior to the divorce, Hedges was charged with battering his wife in February 1994. The charge was dropped because of a diversion agreement.

After that, she filed several restraining orders against him.

And a request for emergency divorce included a letter from a local mental health specialist indicating she feared Hedges would kill her. The letter also stated he banged her head repeatedly against a concrete floor and held her in her residence against her will.

Hedges is being held in Douglas County Jail on $100,000 bond.

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