Psychiatric Tests Ordered In Arson Case – Teaneck Man Set Free While Probe Continues — (The New Jersey Record)

SSRI Ed note: Man on antidepressants has fight with wife, assaults her, after attempts suicide by setting their house on fire. Irrational overreaction.

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The New Jersey Record

December 14, 1995

Author: By THOMAS ZAMBITO, Staff Writer; The Record

A courier who authorities say set fire to his Teaneck home and then waited inside to burn will be evaluated by psychiatrists at Bergen Pines County Hospital to determine whether he is a danger to himself or others.  A judge on Wednesday ordered the evaluation of Joseph Farina, 42, who was charged with aggravated arson after prosecutors say he lit fires in seven spots in his Lindbergh Boulevard home Sunday in an apparent suicide attempt that followed a fight with his wife.

While the fire was raging, Farina’s wife, Raysa, was at Teaneck police headquarters seeking a restraining order against her husband because of the fight earlier that day. Farina was charged with simple assault in connection with that fight, in which authorities say he threw his wife onto a couch, put her in a headlock, and shoved her.

Superior Court Judge Sybil R. Moses agreed to a prosecution request to have Farina examined by state psychiatrists, which will take place in the next five days. But she declined to raise Farina’s $25,000 bail to $50,000.

“This man is not a risk of flight whatsoever,” Moses said. “Where is he going?”  Farina is free on the $25,000 bail, which was posted by his mother.

Prosecutors say Farina poured gasoline in the basement and other parts of the house and then ignited it with a lit cigarette. Assistant Prosecutor James V. Santulli told Moses that Farina specifically targeted his wife’s bedroom and the bedroom of her 23-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.  Witnesses told police that they spotted Farina inside the house watching television about 12:30 p.m. Sunday while they tried to get to him. A neighbor broke down a door and ran inside to rescue him. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting a blaze, which destroyed the house at 74 Lindbergh Blvd.

Farina is living with his mother and sister in Paterson. Dressed in a flannel shirt and bluejeans, he said little at Wednesday’s hearing, other than to answer “not guilty” to the charges.  His attorney, Joseph P. Rem Jr., said Wednesday that his client was not watching TV while the house burned, but was trying to get out. “He was stumbling around trying to find the exit,” Rem said.   He would not comment when asked whether Farina had set the fires.  Rem opposed Santulli’s request for the evaluation, as well as the bail increase.

He said Farina has worked as a Federal Express courier for the past 12 years, has $1,300 in the bank, and has appeared for both of his court appearances. And, Rem said, Farina has no history of criminal activity.

Upset at his father’s death in August, Farina has been taking antidepressants, Rem said.  Moses questioned why Rem would oppose a request to evaluate a man who by some accounts had sat inside a burning house.  “Wouldn’t you want to know if he was a danger to himself and others?” Moses asked Rem.  Rem said the evaluation was unnecessary because Farina already is being treated by a private physician.

Record Number:  2215181