PITTSBURGH (AP) — A man who took a hostage at a downtown Pittsburgh skyscraper and posted to Facebook during the six-hour ordeal was sentenced Wednesday to six to 15 years in state prison.
Klein Michael Thaxton was armed with a hammer and a knife and was off his medication for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression when he held a 59-year-old businessman hostage in September. He later surrendered peacefully and was charged with kidnapping, ransom, aggravated assault and other counts.
Kirsha Weyandt, Thaxton's court-appointed defense attorney, said in court: "We knew he had some mental health issues. No one was aware how deep," the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. Weyandt said Thaxton, 23, of McKeesport, has made several attempts to stay on medication while in jail and that he hopes his prison term will afford him a better opportunity to do so.
Experts said the case vividly illustrated the evolving challenges that confront police when social media plays an active role in a crime-in-progress.
Thaxton sent seven Facebook messages that day, many of them despairing and written in disjointed style. "this life im livin rite now i dnt want anymore," said one post. "ive lost everything and I aint gettin it back."
Thaxton's friends responded by urging him to end the situation peacefully, including one who asked him to think of his mother. Initially, police wanted his Facebook page kept open, hoping to gain useful information, but they later asked Facebook to take it down so that he could focus on communicating with authorities.
In July, Thaxton was charged with attacking another inmate at the Allegheny County Jail. Thaxton told a corrections officer that he intended to drag the inmate into his cell and tie the door shut, but other inmates intervened, according to a criminal complaint.