Alleged Coffee Cart Arsonist Deemed Mentally Unfit to Stand Trial

Kay Lyn Williamson, the woman who was arrested for allegedly setting fire to four Fairbanks Coffee Carts last spring, was deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial back in July, court records recently obtained by the UCSD Guardian show. Charged with four felony counts of “arson of a structure or forest” and four felony counts of “arson of property,” Williamson initially pleaded not guilty on April 20 but was sentenced to a mental competency evaluation, which was completed on June 22.

Although the records do not disclose the nature of her mental health issues, they state that San Diego County Superior Court Judge Margie Woods sentenced Williamson to a maximum three-year stay at Patton State Hospital and authorized physicians to administer Williamson antipsychotic medications without her consent if they are prescribed by her psychiatrist.

Deputy District Attorney Kyle Sutterley, who is a prosecutor on Williamson’s case, explained to the Guardian that should Williamson be deemed mentally competent at any point during her court-ordered psychiatric treatment, criminal proceedings will resume.

“Once criminal proceedings are reinstated, the ultimate result would be a jury trial; unless she chooses to plead guilty before getting to the trial stage,” Sutterley said. “It is also possible that once criminal proceedings have been reinstated she could decompensate and be returned to the state hospital.”

Sutterley also noted that “the state hospital will treat Ms. Williamson for up to three years. If competency is not restored in that three-year period, she will be placed on a conservatorship in a locked facility. The conservatorship would be renewed yearly after that.”

According to statements released by the UC San Diego Police Department at the time of the incident, Williamson supposedly set fire to four Fairbanks Coffee carts located at the Social Sciences Building, Warren Lecture Hall, Revelle Plaza, and Center Hall during a 40-minute time frame starting shortly before midnight on April 16. The total damage was estimated at approximately $30,000.  

One indication that Williamson may have mental health issues occurred at her arraignment after the judge forbid Williamson from going within 100 yards of the UCSD campus. When the judge asked if Williamson understood this restriction, Williamson responded, “Do you understand that I am the acting president of the United States, right now?”

Based on his knowledge of the case, Sutterley agrees with the doctor’s determination of Williamson’s mental incompetency.

The Guardian reached out to Williamson’s attorney from the Public Defender’s Office, but he did not respond by the time this article was published.