The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 1, 2013

Minissale considering mental illness defense

Minissale faces first-degree charge

By Dan Nienaber
dnienaber@mankatofreepress.com

---- — MANKATO — A man facing a first-degree murder charge for allegedly cutting a Mankato woman's throat in June is going through tests to determine if his attorney will ask a judge to rule if he is mentally ill.

Levi Minissale appeared in Blue Earth County District Court before Judge Kurt Johnson Friday. The hearing was continued for six weeks because Minissale's attorney, Brockton Hunter, said Minissale is going through tests to determine if he is competent enough to participate during a trial.

Hunter asked Johnson to continue the hearing because those tests need to be completed before he will feel comfortable moving forward.

"Frankly, I think it's going to be key to which way we go with our defense," Hunter said during the hearing.

Minissale, 24, is seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist for the tests. Hunter said, from the tests completed so far, he is considering asking Johnson for a competency ruling. If Hunter makes the request and Johnson approves, at least one examiner will be appointed by Johnson to do independent tests.

If Minissale is found to be competent, the trial will continue. If he's found to be incompetent he could receive treatment until Johnson or another judge finds he is able to participate in court proceedings.

The psychological findings could also lead to Hunter using a defense claiming Minissale is not guilty by reason of mental illness.

Minissale was arrested June 6 after police found 20-year-old Yesenia Gonzalez in her Mankato home with her throat cut. Her husband, Galo Buccio Ruiz, also had been stabbed. Ruiz told investigators Minissale had cut Gonzalez while they were in a bedroom together, then attacked him while he was sleeping. Ruiz also said Minissale was Gonzalez's ex-boyfriend.

Investigators found Minissale's car parked outside the house where Gonzalez and Ruiz were living. He was found a short time later in a bathroom at a nearby convenience store.

During Friday's hearing, Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Pat McDermott asked Johnson to consider a motion requesting that Minissale provide "major case prints" to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Those types of prints pull identifying markers from a suspect's fingers, thumbs and palms to be compared to prints found on evidence, McDermott said.

The BCA had provided McDermott with a report saying those types of prints would be needed to complete tests. Hunter didn't object to the request and the motion was granted by Johnson.