Minnesota veteran found not guilty of murder by way of insanity

Levi Minissale. Image credit: Blue Earth County Jail.

A jury in Mankato, Minnesota found a veteran not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.

In 2013, Levi Minissale, a 26-year-old former Marine, killed his ex-girlfriend Yesenia Gonzalez and attempted to murder her husband, Gallo Ruiz. Last week, a jury found him guilty of both crimes.

On Monday, the second phase of Minissale’s trial, which focused on his mental health at the time of the murder, began.

According to the Star Tribune, Minissale’s lawyer said he had mental health issues before joining the Marines. During the trial, his lawyer said he struggled with hallucinations.

Minissale’s lawyer described him as a substandard Marine, who heard angels talking to him while he was in boot camp.

Despite his obvious mental problems, Minissale was deployed to one of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan in 2011.

Courtlandt Volker, who was in boot camp with Minissale and was also deployed to Afghanistan with him, testified about his mental health. Volker said Minissale tested poorly and was often a subject of hazing.

Volker said while he was stationed in Afghanistan, he was involved in a firefight with Taliban fighters. Minissale, who was with Volker during the firefight, failed to engage the enemy. According to Volker, Minissale was “off in la-la land.”

Volker also testified that Minissale admitted that angels spoke to him in his dreams.

While serving in Afghanistan, Minissale was involved in an incident where he shot at and may have killed some civilians, including children. According to Minissale’s lawyer, the incident has haunted him since.

After returning to the United States, Volker said many people in their unit were concerned about Minissale’s well-being after leaving the Marines. They were afraid he would end up homeless or attempt suicide.

“We knew Levi was pretty disconnected with reality,” Volker said. “We just didn’t know the extent of it.”

Dr. Ernest Boswell, a clinical psychologist, and an expert on post-traumatic stress and similar disorders, conducted a 32-page psychological evaluation of Minissale for the defense.

Boswell concluded that Minissale was too overwhelmed by delusions and hallucinations to understand that his actions were wrong.

“His entire construction of the situation was bizarre, fragmented and driven by psychosis,” he wrote.

Prosecutors did not dispute that Minissale was mentally ill when he committed the murder. But they believe his actions before and after the attack show that he knew what he did was wrong.

Despite the not guilty verdict, Minissale won’t be set free. He will remain committed at the Minnesota Security Hospital where he will undergo periodic evaluations.

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