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Arson defendant accused of setting Altavista fires to undergo mental health assessment
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Arson defendant accused of setting Altavista fires to undergo mental health assessment

Judge: Altavista man accused of setting blazes will be assessed

RUSTBURG — A man charged with arson and attempted murder in connection with fires in an Altavista neighborhood will undergo a mental health evaluation, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Paul Daniel Martinez, 59, of Altavista, was arrested Sept. 29 in Staunton on two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of burning a residence and burning personal property.

Search warrants in the case reveal reports of a car fire Sept. 7 drove first responders to the 3300 block of Lynch Mill Road in Altavista, where a woman said she saw Martinez throw an object at her car, which then made a booming noise and caught fire.

A neighbor told responders he saw Martinez throwing a glass jar with black powder and nails in it onto the neighbor’s carport, according to the search warrant.

Martinez, who lives next door on Lynch Mill Road, admitted to Altavista Police Department officers he set fire to the car and the house it was parked outside of, as well as throwing the jar onto the carport, the warrant states. He also told officers he had “black powder” back at his residence in his bedroom.

Martinez appeared in Campbell County General District Court on a request from his defense attorney, Pamela Witt Willoughby, for an evaluation of his competency to stand trial, as well as of his sanity Sept. 7. Prosecutor Eric Harrison agreed to the request, citing the facts of the case but not going into further detail about them.

General District Judge Stephanie Maddox granted the request, and the evaluation has a Nov. 30 review date in court. Martinez remains at the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center without bond and is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Dec. 12.

— Rachel Mahoney

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