A hearing regarding the mental competency of a man accused in an apparent random attack on a 7-year-old boy in Desert Hot Springs that rendered the boy unconscious is scheduled for Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Daniel Birch Poulsen, 32, was arrested a day after allegedly attacking Gavin Ludwick in the middle of the street in the 9600 block of Vista Del Valle on July 18.
Two behavioral health specialists were appointed by the court to evaluate the defendant’s mental competency. A judge will use their reports 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.
Police officers were notified on the evening of July 18 of a report of a child found lying in the roadway. Investigators determined the boy was deliberately attacked, and arrested Poulsen the next day, although police did not reveal how they identified him as the suspect.
Gavin was initially transported to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs before being airlifted to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, where he spent 23 days, Wendy Ludwick, the boy’s mother, told KESQ.
Doctors inserted a metal plate to fill the space of his skull that was damaged in the attack. The youngster has since returned home to continue his recovery.
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 earlier.
According to a GoFundMe page posted by a family friend on behalf of Gavin’s family, he was hit on the side of the head with a rock, and was later found bloodied in the street in the midst of a seizure. The attack happened while the boy was walking home from swimming at a neighbor’s house, the page says, although authorities have not confirmed any of those details.
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $202,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
The boy’s alleged attacker is no stranger to mental competency proceedings. Court records show he has been found mentally incompetent to stand trial at least 11 times over the years.
Records show he has been arrested and charged 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 and/or molesting a child under 18 years old.
Because all were misdemeanor cases, Poulsen could have spent a maximum of one year in a mental facility per case, according to John Hall, a spokesman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Poulsen has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County, although at least four of his cases started out with the filing of felony charges before being reduced to misdemeanors either by the court, or as part of the plea bargaining process, Hall said.
Poulsen remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.