A Longview woman accused in the arson-related deaths of a man and his daughter in 2018 has been deemed competent to stand trial, according to a psychiatric report.
Kimberly Bruton, 34, was charged with arson causing bodily injury/death and was previously declared incompetent to stand trial in the deaths of Randall Russell, 74, and his daughter, Lisa Tesmer, 52. They died in a fire March 9, 2018, in the duplex they shared with Bruton on Cherie Lane in Longview.
Bruton was committed to North Texas State Hospital and later moved to San Antonio State Hospital for psychiatric treatment and competency restoration.
Bruton was initially arrested at the scene where Longview firefighters found her standing outside the duplex. A search warrant stated Deputy Fire Marshal Marcus Delaney arrived to find Bruton “standing outside the residence holding a 32-ounce bottle of charcoal lighter fluid.”
According to the competency report, when she was found at the scene of the fire, “she was noted to be disoriented, agitated and appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic or some other illicit substance.”
The warrant said Bruton told the investigator she had been trying to start a fire in the fireplace with the lighter fluid.
Bruton was released from jail after two days but was indicted on the arson charge five months later. She was arrested May 23, 2018, in Denton on an unrelated arson charge, at which point Longview fire officials interviewed her again about the duplex fire.
According to the report, while being interviewed by police, “Bruton admitted to intentionally setting the fire, however she denied that her intention was to harm her housemates.”
“Bruton believed that her housemates ‘were in danger’ (unspecified as to why and who),” the report said. “She also reported that ‘there was something bad in the house’ on the evening of the fire. In order to protect her roommates and keep them out of harm’s way, she set the blaze in an attempt to force them out of the house.”
The report states that Bruton said she removed a length of board from the fireplace and set a chair on fire in the living room and then attempted to warn the others in the house.
“Ms. Bruton stated that at one point, she observed the couple attempting to exit the front door of the burning building, however ‘someone or something’ pushed them back into the house,” the report said. “It should be noted that during a search of the premises after the fire had been extinguished, drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine were recovered from the residence.”
Bruton told officers that she once owned a house in Louisiana and that “residence ‘burned down’ under suspicious circumstances” and she relocated to Texas, the report said.
She underwent a competency evaluation March 18, 2019 and was deemed incompetent to stand trial and noted “paranoid delusions.” Bruton was evaluated again June 29, 2019, and again deemed incompetent.
The report said Bruton has suffered from substance abuse issues since she was 12, was greatly affected by a number of close family member deaths, endured several forms of abuse and dealt with “an extremely chaotic early life” in Louisiana.
In the Oct. 9 assessment, Bruton was deemed cooperative and “stabilized at present.” She demonstrated understanding of the charges against her and the legal system. She was deemed by a psychologist and the hospital to be competent for trial.
“She appears to have sufficient present ability to consult with her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and she appears to have a rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings against her,” the report said. “Upon her return to jail awaiting disposition of her pending charges, I strongly recommend that she remain under psychiatric care and the hearing be held as early as feasible to maintain clinical improvements gained over the course of her hospitalization ...”
The report was submitted to 124th District Court Judge Alfonso Charles and filed Oct. 15. Bruton was discharged from San Antonio State Hospital and returned to Gregg County North Jail on Wednesday where she is held on $200,000 bond.
According to court records, a status hearing is scheduled Dec. 11, but a trial date has not been set.