the republic logo

Judge agrees to move Pennsylvania school stabbing suspect to mental health facility for care

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

GREENSBURG, Pennsylvania — A judge has approved moving a 16-year-old boy charged in a high school stabbing rampage to a Pittsburgh-area psychiatric hospital indefinitely after three experts testified he was motivated by the Columbine massacre.

Alex Hribal, of Murrysville, has been held at a juvenile detention center in Westmoreland County since the April 9 attack at Franklin Regional High School.

Hribal's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, has acknowledged the boy stabbed 20 fellow students and a security guard — all of whom have recovered — with two 8-inch kitchen knives he sneaked from home. But Thomassey argued the boy needs serious mental health treatment until he stands trial. Prosecutors maintained he could get the care he needed with an outside doctor coming to the detention center.

Defense psychologist Bruce Chambers testified Alex Hribal planned to attack on April 20, the 15th anniversary of Columbine, but couldn't because school was out that day. Instead, the boy chose April 9, the birthday of Eric Harris, one of two Columbine killers.

Hribal told doctors who examined him that he had intense feelings of not fitting in at school, in part because of his smaller, wiry stature; concerns that girls didn't like him; and not getting picked for teams in gym class. The experts testified Hribal struggled with alienation and depression since at least fifth grade, when he held a knife to his chest and considered suicide.

He was researching suicide in September when he found an online article about Columbine and began planning his own attack in October.

Hribal "did extensive research about Columbine" and "felt sort of an affinity" with Dylan Klebold, the other Columbine shooter, but especially Harris, Chambers said.

Like them, Hribal "was planning on this being the end of his life," Chambers said. "And he was surprised he was still alive after it occurred."

Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani ruled that Hribal would be best treated at Southwood Psychiatric Hospital rather than at the detention center.

The defense is still hoping to move the case to juvenile court, where a judge would have jurisdiction over Hribal 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.

District Attorney John Peck has said he'll oppose moving the case to juvenile court.

Thomassey said the boy's mental state will be an issue wherever the trial is eventually held and said moving the boy to the psychiatric hospital may be the only way to eventually understand what happened. All three experts, including one hired by the prosecution, agreed Hribal came from a model family, whose parents Thomassey described as "Ozzie and Harriet," and gave no obvious signs of turmoil before the stabbings.

"They're still trying to figure out why it happened and why they didn't see it" coming, Thomassey of Hribal's parents, who didn't comment.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.