Arson suspect to undergo further mental evaluation

Published 6:07 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

The man accused of setting fire to the Suffolk Tower apartment building downtown will undergo further mental evaluation at Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg following a hearing in Suffolk General District Court.

Herbert Boothe, 69, appeared via video from Western Tidewater Regional Jail, where he has been held without bond.

“He is not currently competent to stand trial,” said Boothe’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender LeRon Gilchrist, during an Oct. 4 hearing.

At his previous hearing Aug. 30, Gilchrist had asked that Boothe undergo a mental evaluation.

Boothe, who had lived on the fifth floor of the building in apartment 518, according to a criminal complaint, is charged with arson of an occupied dwelling in connection to the July 13 three-alarm fire that displaced 118 residents and caused them to be housed in city hotels and find alternative housing.

According to the criminal complaint, Boothe “admitted to sitting (sic) the fire in his apartment by lighting a chair on fire with a lighter.”

He has also been charged, according to other criminal complaints, with assault and battery for allegedly spitting in the face of a Suffolk Police officer, and attempted sexual battery for allegedly scratching someone in the chest and arm. Both incidents are alleged to have taken place at Sentara Obici Hospital, where Boothe was being treated after the fire.

The next hearing in the case will be at 9 a.m. Dec. 7 in Suffolk General District Court.