Alleged arsonist to undergo mental evaluation

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An alleged serial arsonist is being ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation by the judge overseeing his case in Bowie County.

Clifford Martin Clark, 26, is charged with four counts of second-degree arson for fires allegedly set in abandoned Texarkana, Texas, houses. One first-degree felony count of arson involves a fire allegedly set by Clark at an occupied residence.

Clark was scheduled for a pretrial hearing Monday before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart but he was not in court. Lockhart said Clark refused to come out of his cell and noted that his defense attorney, Deborah Moore of the Bowie County Public Defenders Office, has asked that a psychological evaluation be ordered.

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Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said her office has no opposition to the request. Crisp said Clark’s behavior has presented challenges for jail staff and said Clark is currently on suicide watch. Moore said Clark has been harming himself while in the jail and said Clark has scars on his arm from cutting himself.

Lockhart agreed to sign an order for Clark to undergo a psychological evaluation.

Clark has been behind bars since his arrest following a series of fires Nov. 28. The Texarkana, Texas, Fire Department began responding to calls before noon that day. The first call came at 11:41 a.m. to a residence in the 1300 block of west 5th Street. All accidental and unintentional sources of ignition were eliminated and the blaze was determined to have been intentionally set, according to a probable cause affidavit.

At 12:52 p.m., the fire department was called to 1300 Keel Street to put out a fire in an abandoned structure with no utility service. Firefighters determined loose debris in the building was used to start the fire.

At 2:21 p.m., while leaving the Keel Street blaze, firefighters spotted smoke coming from 915 McShane Avenue nearby. The McShane house was abandoned and had no working utilities. While searching other abandoned buildings on McShane, firefighters discovered another building in which a fire had been set but burned out without assistance from the fire department.

At 7:42 p.m. fire units responded to a fire at 2617 Garber Street. The abandoned house was fully involved when firefighters arrived and was collapsing. While patrolling the area for a suspect, firefighters discovered that a second fire had been set at 915 McShane, the same building where fire had been extinguished earlier in the day.

Tips from the public led to the identification of Clark as a suspect. Clark allegedly denied setting the fires but put himself at the locations of the fires when they were started.

If convicted of second-degree arson, Clark faces two to 20 years on each of the four counts. If convicted of first-degree arson, Clark could receive five to 99 years or life in prison.

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