Psych hospital refuses to treat Pennsylvania teen charged with stabbing 20 students, guard

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PITTSBURGH — A psychiatric hospital has cited security concerns in its decision to refuse treatment to a teenager awaiting trial on charges he stabbed 20 fellow students and a security guard at his high school.

Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani agreed with defense witnesses at a Friday hearing who said 16-year-old Alex Hribal, of Murrysville, needs intensive inpatient treatment at a mental hospital. Hribal has been held at the county juvenile detention center since the April 9 rampage at Franklin Regional High School.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey, the judge and District Attorney John Peck met in chambers after the hearing and believed they had settled on a suitable facility. Other psychiatric hospitals had rejected Hribal, saying he was too young or because he remained in custody on attempted homicide and aggravated assault charges, Thomassey said.

But the facility they chose, Southwood Psychiatric Hospital in Upper St. Clair, later reversed course, a decision first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"Southwood had security concerns," the judge told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "Counsel for defendant is investigating other options. If a facility is approved, the defendant will be transferred and the court order stands and remains in effect."

A Southwood spokesman didn't immediately return a request for comment.

"I'm at my wit's end," Thomassey told the AP. "It was explained that he was in custody. Then this guy calls the court yesterday and says, 'We can't take him.'"

Peck and his psychiatric expert, Dr. Bruce Wright, disagreed with defense experts that Hribal may be developing schizophrenia and, instead, proposed keeping Hribal in the juvenile facility but allowing him to visit a psychiatrist or having one brought in to treat him.

"As Dr. Wright said, treatment begins with the person wanting to begin treatment. He's been offered treatment more than once by detention officials, and he declined," Peck said Tuesday.

Thomassey denied that at Friday's hearing and said the boy now knows he needs mental health treatment.

Marsha Levick, the deputy director and chief counsel at the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, said cases like Hribal's are rare. But she said, Pennsylvania courts "have been able to facilitate entering into special contracts for kids who have special needs."

Levick cited the case of Miriam White, an 11-year-old Philadelphia girl who stabbed a 55-year-old hairdresser who was walking her dog in August 1999. The girl told authorities she knew she wouldn't have to return to her foster home if she stabbed someone.

When authorities couldn't figure out where to house the girl, a judge found a juvenile treatment center in Texas. The girl eventually pleaded guilty to third-degree murder when she was 18 and is serving 18 to 40 years in prison.

Miriam wasn't moved to a mental hospital, but Levick said her case "represents the notion that judges can sometimes do things that seem like one-of-a-kind solutions."

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