Student, 16 when he stabbed classmates, to face adult trial

AP News
Posted: May 09, 2016 4:33 PM

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A young man who was 16 years old when he stabbed 20 fellow students and a security guard at his high school apparently in remembrance of the Columbine massacre should stand trial as an adult, not as a juvenile, a judge ruled Monday.

A defense attorney for Alex Hribal had argued juvenile court supervision ending when he's 21 would provide a better chance for him to receive treatment for mental health issues that fueled his rampage at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville in April 2014.

But Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani agreed with District Attorney John Peck that the enormity of the attack and the risk Hribal could reoffend make adult sanctions more appropriate.

"Simply put, the court finds that the risk of the defendant's relapse ... and many unknown and unpredictable psychological/psychiatric factors outweigh the likelihood that defendant's re-entry into our community would be safe and of no concern to the community," the judge wrote.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey has acknowledged Hribal stabbed the other students using two 8-inch kitchen knives he carried from home that morning. Hribal slashed his way through the suburban Pittsburgh school's hallways in a near-robotic fashion, apparently in a twisted bid to commemorate the birthday of one of the two teenagers involved in the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, witnesses said.

None of the students stabbed by Hribal died, but four were critically injured.

Thomassey didn't immediately respond to a phone call or a text message seeking comment on Monday.

Hribal, who's 18 years old now, could face decades in prison if convicted of multiple counts of attempted homicide and aggravated assault plus a weapons charge. No trial date has been scheduled.

Peck, the district attorney, called the judge's ruling "the appropriate decision based on the evidence." He said he'd be open to settling the case with a plea agreement, but he didn't comment on the terms he'd seek.

"To have a trial just reopens these wounds that were inflicted two years ago," Peck said, adding he'd "seek to avoid that if possible."

The four students critically injured by Hribal's attack have been released from hospitals, though some have lingering health effects. Most of the others suffered puncture or slash wounds that didn't involve vital organs.

Prosecution and defense psychiatrists agreed Hribal was fascinated with the Columbine shooting massacre, perpetrated by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who killed 13 people and wounded 24 others before killing themselves. Hribal carried out his attack on April 9, Harris' birthday, because school was out on his preferred date, April 20, 2014, the 15th anniversary of Columbine, the doctors testified last year.