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Judge Michael K. Cooper signed paperwork late Wednesday afternoon to have Dr. Sharon Stewart, the 46-year-old Alpena podiatrist charged in the arson of a Guthrie Lakes home, transferred to a mental health facility in Grand Rapids after an evaluation through Community Mental Health (CMH) the same day.
Otsego County prosecutor Kevin Hesselink said a Thursday preliminary hearing for Stewart was postponed once CMH had made the recommendation that treatment for mental health reasons was needed.
A competency exam has been ordered for the 46-year-old Alpena podiatrist charged in the Nov. 6 arson of a Guthrie Lakes home. A competency hearing on the matter has been set for Jan. 20 at 1:30 p.m. in District Court.
Otsego County prosecutor Kevin Hesselink said the hearing will be held to determine if Dr. Sharon Stewart is mentally competent to understand the charges against her and competent to stand trial on those charges.
Stewart has been charged with count-one arson, a 20-year felony; one count of curtilage - for the attempted arson of an outlying building, also a 20-year felony; one count of home invasion, a 15-year felony; and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon, a five-year felony.
After a routine mental health evaluation conducted by Community Mental Health (CMH) last month and a subsequent recommendation by CMH, Stewart was transferred from the Otsego County Jail where she had been lodged since the alleged arson, to a mental health facility in Grand Rapids for treatment
Dr. Sharon Stewart is mentally competent to stand trial on charges of arson, home invasion, possession of a dangerous weapon and criminal sexual assault, a judge ruled.
Stewart, 46, of Alpena, on Nov. 5 allegedly used a torch to set fire to the home of an insurance official who denied a workers' compensation claim she filed. The house burned to the ground.
She faces a separate arson charge after admitting to police she previously tried to burn down the home in Otsego Lake Township, and also left a dead skunk in the mailbox.....
Podiatrist pleads guilty to arson
She'd been holding out for insanity defense
GAYLORD - Dr. Sharon Stewart pleaded guilty to arson after months of holding out on an insanity defense.
Stewart was accused of torching a home in Otsego Lake Township on Nov. 5 after a previous failed attempt, when she admitted to police that she left a dead skunk in the mailbox. The home was owned by an insurance official who denied a workers' compensation claim she filed.
Stewart worked as a podiatrist in Alpena before her arrest.
She also faced a separate charge of criminal sexual assault after two alleged incidents with a female prisoner on Dec. 19, while she was held at Otsego County Jail in Gaylord.
Stewart on Wednesday accepted a plea bargain for one count of arson, a 20-year felony. All other charges were dropped.
"I'm confident she'll go away for a long time," said Otsego County Prosecutor Kyle Legel.
Defense attorney Joe Kwiatkowski of Cheboygan said Stewart chose to take the plea bargain to avoid a possible long-term commitment in a state mental facility and has begun psychiatric treatment while in jail.
"Her mental health has always been a concern," Kwiatkowski said.
The first trial was scheduled to begin today after several months of delays to await the report of an independent forensic psychologist. Stewart was ruled competent for trial in February, based on the state's psychiatric evaluation.
Stewart's sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Sentencing for Dr. Sharon Stewart, the Alpena podiatrist who pleaded guilty in August to the November 2004 arson of a Guthrie Lakes home, is scheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Stewart was arrested Nov. 6, 2004 by troopers from the Michigan State Police Gaylord post for allegedly burning to the ground the Guthrie Lakes home of Richard Leete that day.
A report from the Gaylord post indicated a possible motive for the arson may have a reported dispute Stewart allegedly had with Leete after he had reportedly denied a workman's compensation claim she had filed.
The 46-year-old Stewart, who has been lodged on a $2-million bond since her arrest, pleaded guilty to one count of willfully and maliciously burning a dwelling or house, a 20-year felony.
She will be sentenced by Judge Dennis F. Murphy in 46th Circuit Court.
In exchange for her guilty plea, Stewart has asked that all other charges against her be dropped, including the arson of a dwelling, a 20-year felony.
Stewart also had been charged with one count of home invasion, a 15-year felony, one count of curtilage - the attempted arson of an outlying building - a 20-year felony, and a weapons and dangerous gas ejection charge, a five-year felony.
A later charge of one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct was added in January, after she allegedly engaged in the inappropriate touching of another female in the Otsego County Jail. That charge also is expected to be dropped.