Man who heard ‘dark spirit’ prior to building fire deemed fit to stand trial

The 27-year-old is accused of arson after flames destroyed a former Bremerton concert venue.

  • Friday, November 2, 2018 12:22pm
  • News

A man accused of burning down an abandoned concert venue in Bremerton last month was deemed fit to stand trial.

Joshua L. Sonnier, 27 years old, allegedly admitted to police during questioning that he set fire to wooden beams inside the building after “hearing a dark spirit or the devil talk to him,” stating that he wanted to “cleans[e] the building of the evil spirit,” according to an October 3 statement of probable cause.

The October 1 fire leveled the building formerly known as Natacha’s on Arsenal Way. Prosecutors believe it was intentionally set.

Judge William C. Houser ordered an evaluation of Sonnier’s competency to stand trial on October 4. The evaluation was conducted by Dr. Barry Ward, a psychologist with the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.

In his assessment, Ward wrote that Sonnier, who was homeless at the time of the fire and has a history of depression and methamphetamine use, “occasionally hears things” primarily under the influence of drugs, but that he wants to be found competent and was “pleasant and cooperative” during the evaluation. Sonnier was able to understand the charges and could “explain the roles of the parties, his basic rights and describe the procedures of criminal cases,” Ward wrote. “Mr. Sonnier did not appear to have a formal thought disorder.”

Judge Houser’s ruling was filed on October 22.

“The defendant has the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense,” the court found.

Sonnier pleaded not guilty to arson in the first degree, a class A felony punishable by up to life in prison. Bail was set at $100,000.

A jury trial is scheduled to begin December 10.

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