Man who set fire to Greek Orthodox church sentenced to 7 years, 4 months in state mental hospital

Both sides agreed that Darin Williams was insane

EL CAJON, Calif. - A man who set fire to a church in Rancho San Diego and attacked a cellmate four days after his arrest was ordered Tuesday to spend seven years and four months in a state mental hospital.

Darin Wayne Williams, 39, pleaded guilty last month to arson and assault with intent to commit mayhem.

Following a full evaluation by two court-appointed doctors, attorneys on both sides agreed that Williams was legally insane at the time of both offenses.

On Tuesday, Judge John Thompson ordered that Williams be committed to Patton State Hospital for the seven-year-plus term.

While there, Williams will "receive treatment for a major mental illness and the public will remain protected," said Deputy District Attorney David Williams III, who is no relation to the defendant.

If, after seven years and four months at the hospital, doctors determine the defendant still poses a threat to the community, he could stay there for two-year extensions for the rest of his life, according to the prosecutor.

The defendant was arrested Jan. 27 within hours of a fire that caused about $250,000 in damage to Saint Gregory of Nyssa Green Orthodox Church in the 1900 block of Maryann Way at Jamacha Road. According to authorities, Williams said his patron saint, St. Gregory of Nyssa, told him to do it.

No one was injured in the 4 a.m. blaze, which was investigated by the sheriff's Bomb/Arson Unit and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The defendant was known to church officials before the fire. The Rev. Simeon Corona, a Greek Orthodox priest, told reporters that Williams had been in psychiatric hospitals before and was released from one shortly before he set the fire.

Corona told 10News, "He was a sick young man. He was a member as best he could be. We helped him as best we could as well but he was ill; off his medications and obviously got violent."

Corona said he and the parish have forgiven Williams, adding, "We still pray for him daily and at every service. We want the best for him, that he'll get the help he needs."

Williams had been renting a room from a church parishioner and became upset after he was told he could no longer stay there unless he took his medication, according to the priest.

His motive for attacking his cellmate was unclear.

A new church is being built on the site with the hope to have it completed for Christmas services.

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