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Westmoreland

What's next for Hribal? Lots of tests, treatment

Rich Cholodofsky
| Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, 5:39 p.m.
Alex Hribal is taken back to prison by county sheriffs, after being sentenced to up to 60 years in prison for attempting to kill 21 people at Franklin Regional High School in 2014, on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Alex Hribal is taken back to prison by county sheriffs, after being sentenced to up to 60 years in prison for attempting to kill 21 people at Franklin Regional High School in 2014, on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.

Alex Hribal remained in Westmoreland County jail on Tuesday and is likely to be held there until at least next week, when he will be transferred to serve the bulk of a 23 12- to 60-year sentence in state prison.

Just how long Hribal, who was sentenced this week for the knife rampage at Franklin Regional High School nearly four years ago, remains behind bars ultimately will be up to the state's Probation and Parole Board, which can release him as early as 2037, sometime near his 40th birthday.

Hribal, 20, was sentenced Monday by Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani. He has been in custody since April 9, 2014, when he was tackled in a school hallway after he slashed and stabbed 20 students and a security guard with two kitchen knives he brought from home.

Sheriff Jonathan Held said deputies will transport Hribal to the state's diagnostic and classification center at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill in Cumberland County as early as next week. He will not be included in a transport scheduled for Thursday.

“There is no transport order yet, and we have to give the Department of Corrections 72 hours' notice. He's not going this week,” Held said.

Sue McNaughton, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Corrections, said Hribal could spend several months at Camp Hill before he is assigned a permanent location to serve his sentence.

“He will be evaluated for educational needs, risk for violence, treatment needs and mental health needs. He will be put through a whole myriad of tests,” McNaughton said.

Hribal pleaded guilty in October to 43 charges, including 21 counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault, as well as one weapons offense for taking knives onto school property.

Police said Hribal critically injured several students during the rampage. No one died.

Hribal's mental health has been an issue since his arrest. Defense-hired doctors diagnosed him as suffering from depression and schizophrenia. And although Feliciani ultimately determined Hribal's mental health issues did not rise to a level that affected his guilty finding, he ordered him to receive psychological treatment while in custody at the county jail.

As part of his sentencing, the judge ordered that the state continue mental health treatment and asked that his current doctors continue work with Hribal while he is in jail.

“The court order will be relayed when he is classified in the state system. We may have equal or better care we can provide,” McNaughton said.

According to the most recent statistics, 28 percent of inmates in the state prison system receive treatment for mental illness, and 8 percent of all inmates are seriously mentally ill, McNaughton said.

Once his classification needs are finalized, Hribal could be sent to any of the state prisons throughout Pennsylvania, including the State Correctional Institution at Pine Grove in Indiana County, which houses a program for young adult inmates under 21. Hribal will turn 21 in October and at that point likely would be transferred to another prison.

The state's Board of Probation and Parole will require that he serves at least the minimum portion of his sentence — 23 12 years. Inmates do not earn sentence reductions for good behavior, McNaughton said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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