Suspect in fatal Kalihi house fire to undergo mental health evaluation

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The man charged in a fatal Kalihi Valley house fire will undergo a mental health evaluation to determine if he's fit to stand trial.

Daniel Manuel, 58, was set to appear for a preliminary hearing on Friday, but his defense attorney moved for the evaluation first.

The Monday morning blaze killed his roommate, 51-year old Ruben Balintona, and left 20 others homeless.

Witnesses said the two were arguing before the suspect allegedly set bedding on fire inside the home.

On Friday in court, Manuel's family wiped tears away as he was escorted out of the room.

The defense asked for a three-member panel to examine Manuel and submit reports by Feb. 3. The state did not object.

"There's a significant question about Mr. Manuel's fitness to proceed," defense attorney Walter Rodby said.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Scott Spallina said, "It's the constitutional right of the defendant to be represented adequately, and if the defense attorney has a good faith basis to believe he could not represent without the help of his client, then he has the right to get an evaluation of his client."

Manuel is scheduled to be in court again on Feb. 10.

Balintona's family said he was one of seven siblings and a hard worker who helped financially support his family in the Philippines.

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