Alex Hribal gets up to 60 years in prison for Franklin Regional attack; bullying claim denied
Tina Hribal sobbed as she apologized to her 20-year-old son and his victims, at times begging for their forgiveness for not seeing the mental anguish and suicidal thoughts that led to a knife rampage four years ago at Franklin Regional High School.
“If I had known about mental illness, I would have gotten help for you right away,” Tina Hribal testified Monday during her son's sentencing hearing in a Westmoreland County courtroom. “I just couldn't deal with this illness. I am so sorry.”
Judge Christopher Feliciani sentenced Alex Hribal, of Murrysville, to 23 1⁄2 to 60 years in prison for the April 9, 2014, attack in which 20 students and a security guard were injured — some critically — as Hribal used two kitchen knives he brought from home to stab and slash his victims before the start of classes.
Hribal, along with his parents, told Feliciani the rampage was the result of mental illness that grew out of years of being bullied by students.
Harold Hribal spoke at length from the witness stand about incidents he said his son endured, which included name calling and a specific case in which he said a student doused his son with urine in the school hallway.
“Alex wasn't the problem. Alex was the result of the problem,” Harold Hribal testified.
Alex Hribal, speaking publicly for the first time about the attacks, told the judge his actions were in response to the bullying.
“But I think my biggest mistake was falsely believing that if I took revenge and treated people the way some of them treated me, I would be happy. All it got me was a ruined life and a bunch of people that really miss me,” he said.
Hribal did not apologize to his victims but said he felt “horrible” for his actions.
“I mean, there's no words I can use, nothing I can say to make it all better. Nothing I can say to fix it,” Hribal said. “I mean, if you think I'm not, when I was sitting over there and listening to everyone's testimony, I was shaking. My heartbeat was racing. You can't fake that. That's emotion.”
Hribal could be paroled before his 40th birthday.
Feliciani, in imposing the lengthy prison sentence, discounted the bullying allegations, saying there was no evidence to support claims that Hribal was a victim.
“The acts on April 9 were not the result of bullying,” Feliciani said.
The judge ordered that Hribal continue to receive mental health treatment while in prison but conceded that ultimately it will be up to the state's Department of Corrections to plot out any treatment.
Feliciani ordered Hribal to pay $269,574 in restitution to his victims for medical expenses, therapy and counseling services.
In court on Monday, the prosecution presented a packet of 27 letters written by victims, their parents, students who witnessed the rampage and school staff, some of whom wrote at length about their experiences.
One victim, Kolden Cook, 19, testified about his struggles after he was stabbed in the back by Hribal and said he still suffers from anxiety and fear.
“It feels like you've just been robbed of reality. You really can't get it back,” Cook said.
Kaitlyn Shaw, 19, who was not physically injured, talked about watching as friends and fellow students were felled by Hribal during the attack. She studied with Hribal for a biology test just days before his rampage and saw no signs of his troubles, she told the judge.
“I'll never forget seeing my classmates fall to the ground, seeing the floors and walls covered with blood,” Shaw testified.
Carter Boger was a middle school student who learned about the attack when he and his mother were told that his older brother, Jared, had been stabbed and was en route by helicopter to a Pittsburgh hospital.
Jared Boger suffered critical chest wounds and was hospitalized for weeks.
“I believe that Alex Hribal is the definition of pure evil. I want you to see that Alex really is a terrorist,” Carter Boger told the judge.
District Attorney John Peck asked that Hribal be sentenced to 30 to 60 years behind bars. He quoted from a four-page manifesto police found in Hribal's locker that he wrote three days before the attack in which he blamed fellow students for his actions and praised two teens who shot and killed children at a Colorado high school in 1999.
“There still has not been an apology and no regrets. He's still pointing the finger at others,” Peck said of Hribal.
Defense attorney Pat Thomassey argued that Hribal has been mistreated by the court system and that his mental health issues have consistently been downplayed in favor of punishment and retribution.
The defense reiterated its failed attempts to have Hribal prosecuted in juvenile court and declared guilty but mentally ill.
The defense on Monday submitted another medical report from one of Hribal's doctors who found that he suffered from mental illness, including depression and schizophrenia.
“They will throw him on the trash heap,” Thomassey said before holding up a school photograph of Hribal taken before the attack and pleading with the judge for leniency for his client, whom he continued to claim was not a hardened criminal but a troubled child.
“Thirty to 60 years, that is ridiculous. He should go to a hospital; that is what he needs,” Thomassey said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.