The legal fate of the 16-year-old US boy accused of stabbing or slashing 21 fellow students and a security guard at his high school will probably pivot more on his mental state than his age, attorneys say.
The sheer number of victims will not preclude him from being treated as a juvenile, something that would assure his freedom by age 21, lawyers say.
Authorities say that Alex Hribal took the knives to the 1,200-student school outside Pittsburg on Wednesday and randomly attacked other students in a crowded hallway just before the start of classes. The rampage stopped when an assistant principal tackled him.
Hribal is charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault and could face decades in prison if convicted as an adult.
Alex Hribal’s attorney is seeking a psychiatric evaluation and will seek to have his client transferred to juvenile court. To get the case moved, the attorney will have to show Hribal has a better chance of rehabilitation in the juvenile system than in adult court.
“Now once it’s determined what his mental health issues are, if any, that’ll go a long way in determining, I would assume, what a judge would do here,” attorney Patrick Thomassey said. “Why would a 16-year-old who has no history of anything just take two knives from a drawer and go to school and start stabbing people?”
The boy’s family is just as puzzled as police about what triggered the attack, Thomassey has said.
No evidence has surfaced that he was targeting any particular individual or that he was bullied.
He does not appear to have a history of misbehavior or any known mental problems, but attorneys agree his mental health is likely to be central to the case.
Westmoreland County prosecutor John Peck said he does not know what arguments the defense attorney plans to make.
However, he said: “Generally, mental health issues can play a large role in having the case remanded to juvenile court.”
Four students injured in the attack remained hospitalized on Saturday, hospital officials said.
School officials posted a notice on Saturday saying the school would resume classes on Wednesday, a week after the attacks.