Canadian doctor says LA arson suspect was diagnosed with mental disorders

Deputies had to hold Harry Burkhart upright as he appeared limp during his initial court hearing on Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • A Canadian doctor says she was part of a team that examined Harry Burkhart in 2010
  • The team included a psychiatrist, the Canadian doctor says
  • The diagnosis was "autism, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression"
  • Burkhart is facing 37 counts of arson in a string of fires in Los Angeles
A medical doctor in Vancouver, British Columbia, told CNN Thursday that California arson suspect Harry Burkhart suffered from severe mental illness in 2010, when she examined him as part of a team of doctors.
Dr. Blaga Stancheva, a family physician and specialist in obstetrics, said both Burkhart and his mother, Dorothee, were her patients in Vancouver while both were applying for refugee status in Canada.
"I was asked to diagnose and treat Harry to support a claim explaining why he was unable to show up in a small-claims court case," Stancheva told CNN in a phone interview. She declined to cite the case or Burkhart's role in it.
Stancheva said she and other doctors including a psychiatrist diagnosed Burkhart with "autism, severe anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression." The diagnosis was spelled out in a letter she wrote for the small-claims court case, Stancheva said.
Stancheva, citing doctor-patient confidentiality, would not elaborate further, nor would she identify the psychiatrist involved in the diagnosis.
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Burkhart, a 24-year-old German citizen, has been charged with 37 counts of arson following a string of 52 fires in Los Angeles. The charges are in connection with fires at 12 locations scattered through Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, according to authorities.
Stancheva said the refugee applications by Burkhart and his mother were denied by the Canadian government, and she has not seen Burkhart since early March of 2010.
"I was shocked and dismayed at what happened in Los Angeles, and it appears he was not being treated for his depression," she said.