KEARNEY — The attorney for a Shelton man accused of setting fire to the Zion North Shelton Lutheran Church in December has asked that his client have a competency evaluation.

Mathew Poehler, 40, of Shelton entered a written not guilty plea Friday in Buffalo County District Court to a charge of felony second-degree arson of the church at 24975 Sioux Road, north of Shelton.

On Tuesday, his attorney, James Martin Davis of Omaha, filed a motion with Judge John Marsh asking him to order a competency evaluation to determine if Poehler is competent to stand trial, capable of assisting in his own defense and whether he suffers from any mental or psychological disorder.

As of this morning the order hadn’t been granted.

Poehler was arrested in January at the Kearney/Buffalo County Law Enforcement Center following a three-week investigation by the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal.

At 11 p.m. Dec. 10, court records indicate his family reported Poehler had walked away from his Shelton house. The fire was reported at 7:15 a.m. Dec. 11, and at 9:20 p.m. a family member located Poehler walking on U.S. Highway 30 near the Hall/Buffalo County line.

Reports indicate an officer went to Poehler’s house to check on his welfare and found Poehler, whose shoes allegedly smelled of diesel fuel. Poehler also had a pack of cigarettes and a lighter in the front pocket of his pants.

Court records indicate the investigation revealed in the early morning of Dec. 11 Poehler allegedly obtained diesel fuel, entered the church through an unlocked door and started the fire in the balcony. Records indicate Poehler has a mental illness and had not been taking his medication at the time of the alleged incident.

Poehler had done multiple remodeling projects on the church in the past, records indicate.

The church was a total loss. A motive for the alleged crime is unclear.

@HubChic