NEW PORT RICHEY — A man accused of strangling a woman and setting her house on fire last year has been found incompetent to stand trial.
Charles Edward Dear has been ordered to a mental hospital after a psychologist examined him and a judge this month concluded he is incompetent to face charges of arson and second-degree murder.
In legal terms, incompetency means the defendant lacks the mental capacity to understand the court proceedings or assist in his own defense.
A defendant's competency can be restored through mental health treatment. Once found competent again, a defendant can then face trial.
On June 17, 2008, a house on Darlington Road in Holiday went up in smoke. Firefighters found no one inside.
Almost two days later, a 13-year-old boy went to the charred property looking for his friend, the son of the woman renting the house. The boys had been building a motorbike together.
There, the 13-year-old found a body under a fresh patch of dirt in the back yard, with flies circling around it. Firefighters had missed it while they fought the blaze.
Medical examiners determined it was Theresa Jones, 46, the home's tenant. She had been strangled. The house most likely was burned to hide evidence, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said.
This June — one year after Jones' death — sheriff's detectives arrested Dear, 45, who had briefly rented a room from her.
Dear was originally booked on burglary and stalking charges. He had been a suspect in Jones' death, so a detective interviewed him about the case, the Sheriff's Office said, and Dear confessed.
Dear was convicted in 2005 of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon in Pinellas County and served more than two years in prison.
He also faces other charges unrelated to Jones' death, including several counts of auto burglary and one count of indecent exposure.
A status review in Dear's case is set for June 2010.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.