PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A judge determined Friday that the 16-year-old boy charged in a stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional High School in Westmoreland County will be moved to a mental health facility.
Alex Hribal, 16, of Murrysville, has been held at a juvenile detention center in Westmoreland County since he allegedly used two eight-inch kitchen knives to stab 20 fellow students and a security guard at Franklin Regional on April 9.
Leaving the hearing, Hribal said he was sorry.
Reporter: “Are you sorry?”
Reporter: “You are sorry?”
New information presented in court Friday suggested that Hribal’s attack was inspired by the shooting rampage at Columbine High School that happened 15 years ago. Hribal even wanted to carry out his attack on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine tragedy, but moved the date because school was not in session that day.
Hribal’s attorney, Patrick Thomassey, had been trying to move the teen to a mental facility. He contends the boy’s mental condition is deteriorating and will worsen unless he’s housed in a secure mental facility.
“He’s wanted help after this happened. He realized trying to figure out what to do, that there’s something askew in his mind, there’s something wrong. I think he wants to figure out why he did it,” said Thomassey.
And Friday a judge ruled that that’s what will happen. Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani determined that Hribal will stay there for as long as is deemed medically necessary for his treatment.
In court Friday, a psychologist for the defense testified that Hribal showed signs of schizophrenia and depression — and that he first felt depressed and suicidal in the fifth grade. The psychologist went on to say those feelings reappeared when he was in the ninth and tenth grade.
According to the psychologist testimony, Hribal says he related to how the Columbine attackers felt — and that he felt ostracized in school. He also said he didn’t expect to survive the knife attack, that it would be his message to the world.
“He indeed is suffering from mental illness,” said Dr. Bruce Chambers, the psychologist who testified for the defense. “His affiliation with the Columbine perpetrators was a way for him to act out this pathology.”
The psychologist for the prosecution agreed in part, arguing that Hribal has an adjustment disorder due to being in a detention facility and is depressed, but did not agree that the teen in on the Schizophrenia spectrum.
The prosecution’s psychologist also disagreed that Hribal needed to be hospitalized.
Thomassey has said he’ll eventually try to get the case moved to juvenile court, where a judge would have jurisdiction over Hribal only until he’s 21. For now, Hribal is charged as an adult with 21 counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault, plus a school weapons violation, and faces decades in prison if convicted.
Thomassey has said the boy’s mental state will be a factor in his defense whether or not the case winds up in juvenile court. District Attorney John Peck has said he’ll oppose moving the case to juvenile court.
In Pennsylvania, cases can be moved to juvenile court if the defense can convince a judge that the defendant is more likely to be helped and rehabilitated in that venue, where treatment and remedial measures are stressed.
Hribal had not appeared publicly since the day he was arrested.
Hribal already has waived a preliminary hearing on the charges, but an Oct. 6 trial date has been postponed indefinitely given the other legal questions surrounding the case.
Thomassey has acknowledged the boy committed the crimes, but said questions remain about the boy’s ability to recognize the seriousness and wrongfulness of his actions.
A police search warrant indicates Hribal wrote a document three days before the attack in which he described his dissatisfaction with school and society. The document is entitled “Ragnorok,” which is a Norse Legend about the end of the world, police said.
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