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Suspect's Arraignment in Acid Attack Delayed; 'Not Fit,' Officials Say

January 23, 1986|GARY JARLSON | Times Staff Writer

The arraignment of Mark Edward Hand, the man accused of splashing a 4-year-old girl with acid at a park, was postponed Wednesday for at least one day because he was "not fit for court," authorities said.

The 26-year-old Whittier resident had been scheduled to appear at North Orange County Municipal Court in Fullerton to enter a plea to counts of aggravated assault with a caustic chemical growing out of last Saturday's attack on Rachel Ogawa of La Habra.

"The mental health people at Orange County Jail told us he was not fit for court today and that he was being confined to the jail," Officer Terry Branum of the Buena Park Police Department said. "They said they would try again tomorrow."

County mental health officials declined to discuss Hand's condition, citing state patient confidentiality laws.

"That would indicate that he might be under our care and might be held from court for some kind of treatment," Julie Poulsen, deputy director of inpatient specialized care for mental health, said. "However, I don't know his exact status, and I wouldn't be able to share that" information.

At the time of the attack, Hand was scheduled to begin psychiatric evaluation as a condition of his parole to California from Texas, where he had served time in prison on a burglary conviction.

State parole officials said the testing was intended to determine what kind of treatment and medication he might require as part of a regular outpatient program.

Although his prison records from Texas gave no indication of mental health problems, the officials said, Hand's family told authorities he had undergone previous treatment that required him to take medication.

Hand was arrested Monday afternoon after investigators traced a truck that witnesses said the girl's assailant had fled in.

Rachel had been at a picnic at Los Coyotes Regional Park in Buena Park with her family. As she and her mother were leaving a restroom, a man doused the youngster with two cups of what was later identified as acetic acid.

Rachel suffered first- and second-degree burns on her face, arms, chest and legs and is being treated at St. Jude Hospital in Fullerton.

Branum said a second count against Hand is based on the fact that the mother got the acid on her hands and shoulder when she picked up her daughter.

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