Man accused in attack ruled competent for trial

Luis A. Ballesteros had been released from prison just before an alleged assault in Touchet.

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WALLA WALLA -- A man accused of attacking a delivery man in Touchet has been found competent to stand trial.

Luis A. Ballesteros, 20, was arrested in early June and the following month -- at the request of his attorney, Gail Siemers -- was ordered to undergo mental evaluations by experts from Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake. Siemers wrote in a declaration at the time that her client was unable to communicate or control his behavior in the Walla Walla County Jail.

Ballesteros received treatment and Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht signed an order Monday finding he now is competent for his case to proceed.

Ballesteros then pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree burglary, second-degree assault and third-degree attempted theft. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 4 and 5.

Officials said Ballesteros had been released from the Washington State Penitentiary early on June 3 and was headed to the Tri-Cities on a Grape Line bus that stopped at the Touchet Mercantile. He entered the store and walked into a storage room in which a young girl was sleeping, officials said.

The delivery man, Joseph D. Hunt of Kennewick, went into the room about 7 a.m. to drop off products and was confronted inside by Ballesteros, who closed the door and started attacking Hunt, according to a Sheriff's Office report filed in court.

Hunt overpowered Ballesteros and helped subdue him until law enforcement arrived, officials said. Hunt wasn't injured, nor was the girl hurt or disturbed.

Ballesteros also is charged with two counts of custodial assault for allegedly injuring two jail officers in August.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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