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Doctor for prosecution to evaluate Franklin Regional stabbing suspect's mental state

| Thursday, July 10, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

The Murrysville teenager accused of trying to kill 20 classmates and a security guard at Franklin Regional High School will undergo a mental health evaluation by the prosecution's doctor.

Westmoreland County Judge Richard E. McCormick Jr. signed a court order on Thursday authorizing Dr. Bruce A. Wright to assess 16-year-old Alex Hribal, who has been held at the county's juvenile detention center since he was subdued after allegedly stabbing and slashing his way down a school hallway with two kitchen knives on April 9.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey last month asked that Hribal be transferred to Adelphoi Village, a secure juvenile treatment facility in Derry Township, claiming his mental condition had deteriorated during his stay in the Regional Youth Services Center in Hempfield.

“We need an evaluation in order to have a basis to respond to their request,” District Attorney John Peck said.

Wright, the psychology department chairman at St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon, will be paid by taxpayers. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office before and testified for the prosecution as its mental health expert in two death penalty cases in the past two years.

“To me, it's obvious this young kid needs some help, and it's obvious to me he can't get it in the Westmoreland County juvenile detention center,” Thomassey said. “He's got something broken psychologically, and we need to try to get him in someplace that can help him.”

In a defense motion filed on June 27, Thomassey contended Hribal was in dire need of more mental health treatment than he can receive at the juvenile detention center.

Thomassey said two previous mental health evaluations conducted by the defense determined that Hribal suffers from depressive disorder and schizophrenia.

Although Hribal is being housed without bond in the juvenile center, he is charged as an adult. He faces 21 counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault, as well as a weapon offense.

Last month, he waived his right to a formal arraignment and entered a not-guilty plea.

The defense has said it will ask a county judge to move Hribal's case to the juvenile court system, where he could not be held in custody beyond his 21st birthday.

Prosecutors have not disclosed a motive for the stabbings.

Police found a handwritten note in Hribal's locker dated three days before the attack that expressed dissatisfaction with school and society and his plans to hurt his classmates, according to court papers. The note was titled “RAGNAROK,” the name for a final battle preceding the end of the world in Norse mythology.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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