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Mental evaluation supports temporary insanity defense for woman accused in apartment fire

(WVLT)
Published: Oct. 1, 2019 at 6:25 PM EDT
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The results of a mental assessment for a woman accused of setting a fire at an apartment complex on Country Club Way in October 2019 was deemed to support the defense's claim that she was temporarily insane.

Christina Waldman's lawyers say she was acting out of character due to an experimental drug she had been prescribed called Tamoxifen.

Several community members came forward to vouch for Waldman's character at a previous hearing, suggesting the event was caused by a manic episode brought on by the drug.

Investigators said Thursday that Waldman did not test positive for any illegal drugs. The judge ruled that she may have her GPS removed, but the future of her trial remains yet to be determined.

At a previous hearing the judge decided to reduce her bond to $100,000.

In 2019 Waldman's lawyers asked the judge to place her in around the clock care at a psychiatric facility until the medication could get out of her system.

"I would also point out that she has zero criminal history up until she began taking the medication," Waldman's Lawyer said.

"I'd like to see her get treatment," the judge said. In October he ruled that Waldman must appear in court again to show that the facility where the defense requested Waldman to stay has adequate security in place to keep her from leaving.

A video captured as the fire started shows a man trying to convince Waldman to stop.

"You don't want to do this," says Donald Troutt, the man who shared the video with WVLT News. "What about the people below us? What about all your stuff?" he asks her.

"It's just stuff," she can be heard saying as she chuckles and listens to reggae music.

The man helped her find her cats and safely get them out of the building.

According to reports, Waldman was arrested on charges of aggravated arson and aggravated assault after an explosion caused an apartment fire on October 1.

Rural Metro Fire officials said they were dispatched to a residential fire at 8400 Country Club Way. First responders saw heavy smoke and fire coming from the building and learned the suspect fled the scene.

According to reports, officers began searching the scene for the suspect when they found a woman sitting on the curb. An officer said the woman, Waldman, approached his patrol car with a lit lighter in her hand.

Officials reported when the officer exited his vehicle Waldman walked away and ignored orders to stop and turn around.

The officer said he attempted to grab Waldman but she lit the lighter again. Waldman then opened a pet carrier and grabbed a bottle of lighter fluid inside, according to arrest records.

Waldman reportedly refused to drop the bottle of lighter fluid. The officer said he was in fear of his life so he tased the Waldman.

Reports state Waldman tried to grab the lighter fluid again resulting in the officer tasing her a second time.

Waldman was arrested and taken to Turkey Creek Medical Center by EMS.

Investigators said they interviewed a victim who recorded Waldman inside her apartment as she reportedly spread lighter fluid and ignited the fire. The victim said he unsuccessfully tried to stop Waldman.

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said that a total of 16 Families were displaced as a result of a fire.

Jeff Bagwell with Rural Metro confirmed the explosion took place around 6:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 1st, and that crews were on the scene.

"The building has two firewalls that divide the complex into sections. The walls did their job but we don't know what structural damage it did," Bagwell said.

The explosion occurred on the third floor of the apartment complex causing the back wall to blow out.

Rural Metro said 16 units were damaged. The entire building was evacuated and approximately 70 people total were displaced from the explosion which included about 50 adults and 20 children. The Red Cross is providing the residents with shelter.

Four apartment units suffered fire damage, two more below suffered water damage and six units have a smoke odor in them, according to Rural Metro.

KUB stopped electric at the complex and the American Red Cross has been requested to help out.

The fire was confirmed to be under control as of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and there were no reported fatalities or serious injuries.

Responders were able to rescue several pets from the fire.

There were around 20 firefighters on the scene both from Rural Metro and the Knox County Rescue team. The Sherrif's office was also on the scene.

Copyright 2019 WVLT. All rights reserved.
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