Port Angeles woman accused of arson found competent to stand trial

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles woman who allegedly set fire to her apartment building in March has been found competent to stand trial.

Denise K. Kovacevic, 40, is charged with one count of first-degree arson for allegedly lighting a mattress in the living room of her Evergreen Family Village apartment March 29.

No one was injured in the fire but three families were displaced.

Kovacevic was found competent to stand trial Friday after undergoing competency restoration at Western State Hospital, court papers said.

She was being held in the Clallam County jail on $50,000 bail Wednesday. An arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 23.

In a report dated April 18, Dr. Barry Ward of the state Office of Forensic Mental Health Services concluded that Kovacevic lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against her or to assist in her own defense, the standard for competency.

“Ms. Kovacevic currently exhibits mood, behavioral and possible psychotic symptoms, with an unclear relationship to a traumatic brain injury she suffered in 2009 or 2010,” Ward said in a diagnosis.

Kovacevic reported that she had sustained a brain injury after becoming entangled in a zipline harness and falling from the platform, Ward said.

Kovacevic said she experienced impaired concentration, anxiety, depression and insomnia after the fall. She also reported having a history of depression and anxiety, according to the report.

After the initial diagnosis, Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brent Basden ordered Kovacevic to undergo competency restoration treatment at Western State.

Kovacevic was admitted to a secure treatment unit within the 800-bed psychiatric hospital in Lakewood on June 26.

Dr. Virginia Klophaus, a state forensic evaluator, determined in a July 12 report that Kovacevic had the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against her and the capacity to assist in her own defense.

Klophaus said there were no records of Kovacevic being hospitalized or treated for a head injury.

Kovacevic, who was not prescribed psychotropic medication, attended competency restoration classes and “demonstrated improvement with regards to previously documented psychiatric symptoms,” Klophaus said.

Klophaus offered no formal mental health diagnosis, saying Kovacevic did not appear to present psychotic symptoms, mood disorder or an intellectual disability that would impair her competency.

“She demonstrated an adequate factual understanding of court proceedings and her current legal situation,” Klophaus wrote.

“She was able to apply this information rationally in considering decision-making strategies in hypothetical scenarios.”

“Given the totality of available information, Ms. Kovacevic is expected to have the capacity to consider the evidence against her, make reasoned decisions regarding defense strategies or legal opinions, testify relevantly, and consult rationally with counsel and assist in her defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding,” Klophaus concluded.

Clallam County Superior Court Judge Lauren Erickson signed an order Friday finding Kovacevic competent to stand trial.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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