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Mental fitness of alleged bed burner in question
September 22, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Jacqueline Rivera

A pair of court-appointed doctors disagree whether an 18-year-old Redwood City woman accused of slipping into an ex-boyfriend’s home and torching his bed while he slept is mentally fit to stand trial for attempted murder and arson.

On Friday, a judge accepted the doctor’s reports and appointed a third tie-breaker to decide of Jacqueline Alexandra Rivera should face hospitalization or incarceration. The new report is due back Nov. 2.

Competency is a person’s mental ability for trial while sanity is his or her condition at the time of an alleged crime. If Rivara is found incompetent, she will be placed in a state mental facility and treated until, if ever, she is declared competent and able to aid in her own defense.

When her defense attorney questioned her competency, Rivera had already pleaded not guilty to the incident that left her 21-year-old former boyfriend with minor burns on his arms and hands that required hospital treatment. She is also charged with residential burglary and, if ever tried, faces between 10 and 15 years in prison if convicted.

According to authorities, around 3 a.m. April 26, Rivera knocked on the first-floor bedroom window of the San Mateo home where he lived with his parents and sister. She reportedly asked to talk about their relationship, was denied and returned with the same request an hour later. After she left the second time, the man went to bed but told authorities he awoke around 5:45 a.m. to find his mattress on fire. He screamed for his father who put out the flames with a garden hose. The victim later told authorities he did not immediately alert police or firefighters because he believed Rivera was responsible but didn’t think he could prove it.

Two weeks later, the man said he received a text message from a woman, later identified as Rivera’s friend, who told him the defendant was responsible for the fire and had made several comments about plans to hurt him. At that point, the man contacted authorities and Rivera was arrested May 7.

She is in custody in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Michelle Durand can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.

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