St. Paul man accused of murdering his mother declared fit for trial

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A Ramsey County judge will try a man previously considered too mentally ill to stand trial on accusations he strangled his mother and then set fire to their St. Paul home.

KARE 11 reports that Michael Ray Caldwell argued with his mother about insurance money, strangled her and then set the fire with lighter fluid. She was found Sept. 6, 2012, a day after she brought him back from a mental hospital in Missouri.

The Pioneer Press says the severely burned body of Lorine Mary Johnson, 49, was found at her Summit-University home at 969 Carroll Ave. Neighbors had reported the house ablaze about 2:30 a.m.

Caldwell talked to police the next day, according to a criminal complaint. He said he strangled his mother with his hands and set the fire with lighter fluid, according to the complaint.

In October, a judge declared Caldwell unable to participate in his own defense, based on psychiatric reports. He has been incarcerated at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, a psychiatric facility, and is on medication.

The Associated Press reports a judge will preside over a "stipulated facts" trial, in which both sides agree to facts in evidence. No witnesses are called to testify.

The judge will present his verdict Sept. 17. If he decides Caldwell committed the crime, he must then decide whether he was mentally ill.

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