Mental evaluation ordered for man charged in Touchet attack

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WALLA WALLA -- A mental evaluation has been ordered for a man accused of attacking a delivery man in Touchet last month.

Experts from Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake are to determine whether Luis A. Ballesteros, 19, was sane when the assault allegedly occurred and if he is competent to assist in his defense. The order was signed Thursday by Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht.

Ballesteros is charged with first-degree burglary, second-degree assault and third-degree attempted theft.

Ballesteros had been released from the Washington State Penitentiary early on June 3 and reportedly 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; the girl was not hurt or disturbed.

In a declaration filed in court Thursday, Ballesteros' attorney, Gail Siemers, wrote that her client is unable to communicate or control his behavior in the County Jail.

"He does not comprehend his current situation and believes that he is being held as a ruse in order for him to be unable to travel to New York City," although he knows no one there nor has ever been there, Siemers wrote.

"Defendant stated to counsel that he believed he was (at the Touchet Mercantile) to help or protect the child," Siemers added in her declaration.

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