Investigators: Hribal may have been influenced by Norse mythology
A handwritten note dated three days before 20 students and a security guard were stabbed at Franklin Regional High School indicates the 16-year-old suspect may have been influenced by Norse mythology, according to a search warrant.
The document, found on the day of the attacks in the locker of sophomore Alex Hribal, “describes his dissatisfaction with school and society,” Westmoreland County Detective Robert Weaver wrote in an affidavit that was unsealed on Tuesday.
The warrant, filed on April 11, sought to examine Hribal's cellphone, which was discovered in the locker.
Hribal is charged as an adult with 21 counts of attempted homicide. Investigators allege he took two kitchen knives to the Murrysville high school on April 9 and randomly attacked classmates in a crowded first-floor hallway before classes began.
The document seized by investigators is titled “RAGNOROK,” according to the affidavit.
Experts said ragnorok, or ragnarok, refers to a final battle preceding the end of the world in Norse mythology.
“Bonds disintegrate, order vanishes, the gods die fighting with their enemies and the world sinks into the sea,” said John Lindow, a professor at the University of California's Berkeley campus. “It then rises from the sea and a new world is born.”
Norse mythology emanates mostly from Viking-era Northern Europe and focuses on gods such as Thor and Odin, said Verlyn Flieger, a professor emerita at the University of Maryland.
“(Ragnarok) is the name for the last battle between the gods on one side and the giants and monsters on the other, in which each side destroys the other,” Flieger said.
Mythology has gained renewed popularity through young adult books, movies and a television series that feature Vikings and their mythical leader, Ragnar, on The History Channel.
As he was about to die by lethal injection in 2012, a death row inmate in Oklahoma chanted apparent references to Norse mythology, which he had studied in prison, according to media reports.
A handwritten note dated April 6 about Hribal's intentions that was found in his locker is detailed in one of two previous search warrants and a criminal complaint.
“I can't wait to see the priceless and hopeless looks on the faces of the students of one of the ‘best schools in Pennsylvania,' realize their precious lives are going to be taken by the only one of them that isn't a plebeian,” the note states.
District Attorney John Peck confirmed that the note titled “RAGNOROK” is the same with the reference to plebeian, or a commoner.
Investigators seized as part of previous search warrants:
• Several items from Hribal's locker, including a backpack, cellphone and school binders.
• Hribal's academic records from grades 1-10.
• Computers, xBox games and a knife block with two knives missing from Hribal's Murrysville home.
Police are examining Hribal's cellphone records. Two high school students received threatening communications the day before the stabbings, but authorities have not said whether Hribal was involved.
Police have not discussed a motive for the attacks. Hribal's attorney, Patrick Thomassey, has suggested he was bullied.
“I think it's apparent, as more of this evidence comes out, that this young boy was suffering from serious mental health issues,” Thomassey said on Tuesday.
Hribal is charged with 21 counts of aggravated assault and a single count of possession of a weapon on school property.
He remains held in the Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield without bond. Last week, he waived his right to a preliminary hearing and is next scheduled to appear in court for a formal arraignment on July 23.
Rich Cholodofsky and Renatta Signorini are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Cholodofsky can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or email@example.com.