Judge: Man accused in arson deaths competent to stand trial

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A judge ruled that an Ohio man accused of killing nine neighbors in two arson fires is competent to stand trial.

The judge in Summit County Common Pleas Court in Akron, Ohio, made the ruling Tuesday at a hearing for Stanley Ford. The 60-year-old Akron man, who has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges, could be sentenced to the death penalty if convicted.

Neither Ford's attorneys nor prosecutors are allowed to comment on the case due to a gag order by the judge.

Ford is accused of killing two adults in one home in 2016 and two adults and five children in another home in 2017. Investigators have said Ford targeted the homes because he was angry with the occupants.

Ford's attorneys have argued that Ford has vascular dementia and brain damage, and should not be subject to the death penalty. But a court-ordered mental evaluation found that he understands the charges against him and can assist in his own defense.

Ford refused to participate in a second evaluation of his mental state that was sought by his attorneys. A hearing is scheduled Friday on whether the possibility of the death penalty should be dropped from his case.