The trial of a Phoenix man accused of killing an Avondale man in a drive-by shooting is on hold because the court ordered the defendant to undergo a mental-competency exam.
Rueben Neal, 18, faces charges of first-degree murder, drive-by shooting and aggravated assault in the March death of Luis Valenzuela, 28, according to Maricopa County Superior Court documents.
The trial, scheduled for Dec. 8, was put on hold Aug. 16, after the court granted Neal's public defender's request to evaluate his mental competence to stand trial. The medical evaluation will determine if Neal is able to understand the nature of the legal procedures and assist counsel in crafting his defense.
Neal began exhibiting "manic" symptoms in July, according to a document filed Aug. 13 by Dawnese Agnick, a Maricopa County public defender. Discussions with Neal since "have been increasingly disjointed," she wrote, and he has "shown paranoia." Neal has become increasingly irrational and difficult for attorneys to communicate with.
Typically, a defendant who is found incompetent will be ordered into treatment to attempt to restore his competency. If competency is restored, legal proceedings resume. Otherwise, charges are dropped and the defendant is placed in a mental-health facility.
Neal is accused of killing Valenzuela on March 19 after a confrontation at a Chevron gas station at 107th Avenue and Indian School Road in Avondale, according to court documents.
At about 1 a.m., Valenzuela and two friends were buying alcohol when they got into an argument with Neal and two other men, records show. Valenzuela and his friends left the station in a Chevrolet pickup truck, heading north on 107th Avenue. As they waited at the light at Indian School, Neal and the two men pulled up behind them in a Chevrolet Malibu. Neal fired several shots at the truck, according to documents.
He is being held on a $1 million bond.