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PLEA BARGAIN IN DOUBT IN ROOMMATE'S SLAYING

A man accused of burning his Orem roommate to death last year is having second thoughts about accepting a plea bargain offered by Utah County prosecutors.

Scott Austin Causey, 22, is charged with one count of aggravated arson and one count of aggravated murder, both first-degree felonies. The aggravated murder charge carries a possible death penalty.Causey is accused of dousing 54-year-old Glen Cowden with gasoline and lighting him afire at his southeast Orem home on Sept. 5. Cowden died about five hours later at a Salt Lake City hospital. Police say Cowden befriended Causey and allowed to him to live at his home for a short while. Police believe the two got into an argument over Cowden's rule forbidding smoking.

In November, Causey was found incompetent to stand trial after two doctors testified he suffered from bipolar disorder. At a hearing two weeks ago, however, another doctor testified that Causey is not psychotic, has logical thinking and exhibits stable moods. Following the testimony, 4th District Judge Lynn W. Davis ruled Causey is now competent to proceed with trial.

Following Davis' ruling, Causey waived his right to a preliminary hearing, and defense attorney Steve Killpack said his client planned to accept a plea bargain. Prosecutors are offering to drop the aggravated murder charge if Causey pleads guilty but mentally ill to murder and aggravated arson. A guilty but mentally ill plea would spare Causey a possible death penalty and would give Davis sentencing options other than prison should a mental health panel determine Causey was mentally ill when the crimes were committed.

Causey's parents, however, hired attorney Lee Rasmussen to investigate their son's case and determine whether the plea bargain is the best option. But Davis wants Killpack to remain as Causey's attorney because Rasmussen is not qualified in death penalty cases. Davis will allow the attorneys one month to decide whether the plea bargain is best for their client.

In the meantime, Davis ordered Causey held at the Utah County Jail under special conditions. Fearful that Causey's mental condition might deteriorate, Davis ordered a weekly report from the jail on Causey's condition.