16-year-old Alex Hribal who is accused of stabbing 20 students and a security guard at his high school in April was motivated by Columbine and hoped to die, according to two defense experts who testified at a hearing Friday.
Psychologist Bruce Chambers testified that Hribal planned to stab his fellow students on April 20th, the 15th anniversary of the 1999 school shooting at Columbine, but the school was not going to be in session, so he changed the date to April 9th, the birthday of Eric Harris, one of the two Columbine shooters. On that day, Hribal brought two 8-inch kitchen knives to Franklin Regional High School.
Chambers and Dr. Christine Martone, a psychiatrist, testified before the judge during a hearing to determine whether Hribal should be moved from a juvenile detention center where he is being held pre-trial to a mental health facility. Both testified that bullying was not a factor instead he was motivated by the bullying of others and his feelings of “not belonging and not knowing how to relate…”
Both doctors said Hribal struggled with feelings of alienation and depression for years. They said that he began planning the attack in the fall of 2013 after he read an article about the Columbine massacre. After that, he “did extensive research…” and “felt [a] sort of…affinity” with Harris and Dylan Klebold, the other shooter, said Chambers.
Both testified that Hribal wanted to die during the attack and felt like that was more honorable than committing suicide. “He was planning on this being the end of his life. He was totally sure this was going to be the end of his life,” Chambers said. “And he was surprised he was still alive…”
Patrick Thomassey, Hribal’s defense attorney, contends that his mental condition is deteriorating and will worsen if not moved to a secure mental facility.
Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani will decide. Thomassey has also expressed interest in moving the trial to juvenile court. Hribal is currently charged as an adult with 21 counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault, plus a school weapon violation. District Attorney John Peck opposes the trial being moved to juvenile court. Thomassey says questions still remain as to Hribal’s ability to understand the seriousness of his actions.
Under Pennsylvania law, juveniles charged as adults can have their cases moved back to juvenile court if a judge believes the juvenile can be rehabilitated better with treatment and remedial measures.