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Murrysville church will help with defense costs for school stabbing suspect

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 11:30 p.m.

In the name of compassion, a Murrysville church has set up a fund to assist with legal expenses incurred by the family of Alex Hribal, who allegedly wounded 21 people in a stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High School.

About $500 has been donated to the fund established by Calvary Lutheran Church in the past week, officials said.

“I've been stunned,” said congregation chairwoman Kristine Birus, who doesn't know the 16-year-old or his family, who are not parishioners. “We have cards and letters as well, just people wanting to express their concern.”

Hribal is accused of taking two 8-inch knives to school and stabbing a security guard and 20 students in a first-floor hallway just before classes started on April 9. Two students remain patients at Forbes Hospital — Connor Warwick, 16, and Greg Keener, 15, are in fair condition, according to a spokesman.

Hribal is charged as an adult with 21 cases each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault.

The Rev. David Weeks said church officials knew there might be some negative reaction to the fundraising idea.

“We didn't know, but what we thought was, ‘We'll take a risk and see how the Lord wants this to play out — good, bad or ugly,” Weeks said.

The church is accepting cards or letters as well as donations and plans to direct all correspondence and money to the office of attorney Patrick Thomassey, who is representing Hribal.

Birus said she felt compelled to establish the opportunity to help others who feel compassion toward the family.

Church members have raised funds for the victims and their families as well — more than $500 has been donated to an account at a local bank, and prayer shawls have been distributed, Weeks and Birus said.

“But then you have this other family that's kind of victimized, because they didn't see it coming,” Birus said.

Thomassey said the Hribal family appreciates the support as expenses mount, not just in attorney fees, but for reports and evaluations from experts as well.

“This family has to defend this case, and it's going to be very expensive to do it,” Thomassey said. “I think it's a wonderful gesture.”

“The family is so appreciative of anything,” he said.

The church congregation had been looking for ways to better serve the community prior to April 9, Weeks said.

“This is what I would call a natural response of the church to this kind of situation,” he said.

Past incidents of mass violence have left Birus wondering not only about the victims, but about the aggressor. The Franklin Regional attacks hit home for her.

“The family of the shooter, the attacker, the perpetrator, they drop off the face of the earth,” Birus said. “I wonder — what does the rest of their lives look like?”

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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