A hearing to set a date for the mental competency trial of a man accused of severely injuring a 7-year-old Desert Hot Springs boy in a random attack was rescheduled today to March 24 at the request of the defense.
Daniel Birch Poulsen, 33, was arrested last July after allegedly attacking Gavin Ludwick in the middle of the street in the 9600 block of Vista Del Valle, fracturing the boy's skull and rendering him unconscious.
At the request of the prosecution, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp previously ordered a jury trial to determine whether Poulsen is mentally fit to be prosecuted on one count each of attempted murder and willful child cruelty, along with two sentence-enhancing allegations of inflicting great bodily injury.
To be considered incompetent to stand trial, it must be shown that Poulsen does not understand the nature of the criminal proceedings against him or how to answer the charges.
Proceedings against Poulsen were suspended over the summer, after his attorney expressed doubts regarding his client's mental fitness. Two behavioral health specialists were appointed by the court to evaluate Poulsen's mental competency.
Poulsen is no stranger to competency proceedings.
Court records show he has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial at least 11 times over the years.
On the night of July 18, police officers were alerted to a child lying unconscious on Vista Del Valle. Investigators determined the boy was deliberately attacked, and arrested Poulsen the next day, although police did not reveal how they identified him as the alleged perpetrator.
Deputy Chief Steven Shaw of the Desert Hot Springs Police Department said Poulsen and the boy live in the same neighborhood but did not appear to know each other.
"Everything is indicating this is an absolutely random attack," Shaw said.
According to a GoFundMe page posted by a friend of Gavin's family, the youngster was attacked while he was walking home from swimming at a neighbor's house.
Gavin was later found bloodied in the middle of the street in the midst of a seizure.
According to the family friend, Gavin spent several weeks in the hospital and is now home recovering after having a metal plate inserted into a portion of his skull that was damaged in the attack.
The boy was with friends and family in front of the Indio courthouse in October for a prior court hearing for Poulsen, with Gavin wearing a shirt reading "I deserve justice,'' according to the GoFundMe page.
Poulsen has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County, but court records show he has been arrested and charged with misdemeanors 15 times in Riverside County since 2007 for a variety of alleged crimes, including burglary, battery, resisting arrest, indecent exposure, committing lewd acts in public and annoying or molesting a child under 18 years old.
Friends of the family have created GoFundMe to help the family with medical expenses: https://www.gofundme.com/f/love-for-little-gavin?utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet&utm_medium=copy_link-tip