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6 Franklin Regional students still hospitalized; suspect to be evaluated

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By Renatta Signorini, Rich Cholodofsky and Luis Fábregas
Friday, April 11, 2014, 10:06 a.m.

Six patients remained hospitalized on Friday with injuries suffered during a school stabbing spree on Wednesday, as their alleged attacker is set for a psychological evaluation this weekend.

A restoration company recommended to Franklin Regional School District by the FBI is continuing its cleanup of the high school, said Dan Stevens, a spokesman for the Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety.

“They hope to be completed by mid-weekend,” Stevens said. “They want to make sure there's no evidence.”

Investigators believe sophomore Alex Hribal, 16, brought two 8-inch stainless steel knives to the school on Wednesday morning and began wildly slashing at his classmates, wounding 19 students and one security guard before classes began. He was subdued by school officials and a resource officer and was treated for superficial hand lacerations.

“Evidence indicates he indiscriminately went down the hall randomly stabbing people,” said District Attorney John Peck.

Police have not determined a motive. They are working to determine the origin of the knives.

Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. signed an order on Friday authorizing Dr. Bruce Chambers of Cranberry to meet with Hribal in the Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield, where he is incarcerated on adult charges, for a psychological evaluation.

Four of the hospitalized students are in critical condition. Three are being treated in the intensive care unit of Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. The fourth, identified by family as Jared Boger, underwent a third surgery on Friday morning in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, and a fourth during the weekend will be required.

“We're very pleased with the surgery,” said Dr. Louis Alarcon, a trauma surgeon who participated in the procedure. “We fully expect him to survive.”

The remaining two are in fair condition in Children's Hospital. Pittsburgh Penguins players Robert Bortuzzo and Beau Bennett visited victims at Forbes on Friday before their release.

The players posed for photos, several of which were posted to social media sites. The Penguins held a moment of reflection before Wednesday night's game in Consol Energy Center.

Several other victims have returned home to continue recovering from the attacks just after 7 a.m. Wednesday inside a first-floor science wing. Other students were evacuated to other schools on campus and released later in the morning.

Classes resumed on the following day at district elementary and middle schools, but administrators are formulating a plan and have not released an official start date for high school students, said Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac.

“Right now, our focus is on students and staff,” she said.

Administrators from nearby school districts have either phoned offering support or provided in-person help, including Penn-Trafford, Blairsville-Saltsburg, Gateway, Kiski Area and Greater Latrobe, Reljac said.

“These other district administrators came and helped us to move our students and our staff” and assisted in reuniting students with their parents or a guardian Wednesday, she said.

The Murrysville community has rallied to assist victims and their families through several funds and a T-shirt sale as some take advantage of counseling services being offered either at schools or churches.

“Our district is grateful for the support of our community and from people around the country and around the world,” Reljac said.

The district declined to release the name of the restoration company, Stevens said. Some ceiling tiles were being replaced and other areas are being repainted, he said.

“This company was selected specifically for their low-key approach,” he said.

Defense attorney Owen Seman said Hribal's defense team will seek to move his case out of adult court.

If convicted as an adult, the sophomore would face a 20-year maximum sentence in prison for each of the four counts of attempted homicide and the 21 counts of aggravated assault that have been filed against him. He faces an additional charge of possessing a weapon on school property.

If Hribal was found delinquent in juvenile court, jurisdiction over the teenager would expire when he becomes 21 years old. “We won't file that motion until after the preliminary hearing,” Seman said.

That hearing is scheduled for April 30, though Seman said the defense team plans to waive the preliminary hearing.

Investigators confiscated Hribal's computer and on Friday obtained a search warrant for his cellphone records.

Peck said police are looking into a report that a student received a threatening phone call or text message from another student the night before the attack.

“It's just speculation,” Peck said. “The FBI was already of great assistance retrieving (Hribal's) Facebook discussions.”

Hribal is being held without bail in the juvenile detention center because the Westmoreland County Prison lacks permanent housing for juveniles segregated from the adult population, as required under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, said Warden John Walton.

All of the houses on the street where Hribal's parents and older brother live had their blinds and curtains closed and lights off on Friday afternoon.

“I can't imagine being that family,” said Stephanie Knabe, who attended a community meeting on Friday. “I've heard people say, ‘They're going to have to move.' I pray not. I pray they will be loved and cared for.”

Forgiveness is part of her Christian faith, she said later.

“I believe in God's word, and his word says we are to love our enemies and also our neighbors. They need to be loved and cared for and prayed for.”

Renatta Signorini and Rich Cholodofsky are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or Cholodofsky can be reached at 724-830-6293 or Luis Fábregas is medical editor. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or Staff writers Paul Peirce, Rob Rossi, Bob Stiles and Kari Andren contributed to this report.



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