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Crime

Mental competency trial date set for man accused of severely injuring Desert Hot Springs child

A May 27 trial date was set today to determine whether a man accused of severely injuring a 7-year-old Desert Hot Springs boy in a random attack last summer is mentally competent.

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.

The prosecution previously requested 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.

Details: How one 7-year-old boy is doing after being attacked in DHS

To be considered incompetent to stand trial, it must be shown that Poulsen does not understand the nature of the criminal proceedings against him.

He would then be sent to a state mental hospital for an indeterminate period. Proceedings against Poulsen were suspended last 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.

Psychological evaluations pointed to doubt about the defendant'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.

Desert Hot Springs Deputy Police Chief Steven Shaw 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 last year.

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. He was later found bloodied in the middle of the street in the midst of a seizure.

They said 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 last October before a 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.

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