‘Worried for the safety of the public’: Judge says autistic man facing arson charges must keep GPS monitor

Eric Fox Hernandez is accused of setting fire to his home and neighbor’s vehicle in April

SAN ANTONIO – A judge ruled Wednesday that a man who is facing arson charges for allegedly setting fire to his home and a neighbor’s vehicle in April must continue to wear a GPS ankle monitor while awaiting trial.

The hearing for Eric Fox Hernandez, a 25-year-old who is diagnosed with autism, was held in the 226th District Court.

The defendant’s father, Mark Hernandez, testified that his son suffers from epilepsy and is diagnosed with autism. Mark asked the judge to allow Eric to remove the ankle monitor, saying he has a hard time understanding why he’s wearing it and won’t stop messing with it. The two have been living in a hotel since the fire destroyed their home.

The prosecutors argued against the removal of the monitor, saying that while they understood Hernandez’s condition, they were concerned that at some point he could start another fire.

“I’m very worried for the safety of the public,” said Leon Valley Fire Chief Michael Naughton in testimony. “I don’t see how he can be monitored 24 hours a day (without the device).”

After hearing all testimony, Judge Velia Meza ruled that the ankle monitor would remain but relaxed some restrictions.

“I won’t remove it today but I’m going to help you with the fees,” Meza stated in court. “I’m going to help you by removing the restrictions but he’s still going to be monitored.”

The defense was satisfied with the outcome.

“It’s a step in the right direction for what’s best for Fox and the community,” defense attorney Patrick Ballantyne.

Meza will reevaluate her decision in 30 days and the next step is also to determine whether Hernandez is fit to stand trial.

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About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.