GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — One of 20 students stabbed by a high school classmate testified that the wound to his torso was so severe teachers couldn’t apply pressure to stop the bleeding — because his liver was protruding from it.
The testimony of Greg Keener, 17, at Monday’s pretrial hearing marked the first time any of the victims testified or came face to face with Alex Hribal, also 17. Hribal’s attorney and defense psychiatric experts acknowledge he committed the Columbine-inspired April 2014 rampage, which also wounded a security guard, at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, just east of Pittsburgh.
The hearing, which began Monday, is to determine whether Hribal will continue to be tried as an adult for attempted homicide and aggravated assault, facing decades in prison if convicted, or in juvenile court, where any court supervision or incarceration ends when he turns 21.
The hearing was continued indefinitely — along with Hribal’s criminal trial, which had been tentatively scheduled to begin July 6 — so a prosecution psychiatrist can evaluate Hribal in hopes of countering several defense experts who testified Hribal would be better rehabilitated in juvenile court. Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck plans to have more victims and their parents testify when the hearing resumes in late July or August.
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Keener testified he was “throwing up from shock” when a teacher tried to help him after he was stabbed.
“And my liver had popped out of my wound so they couldn’t put pressure on it,” he said.
Keener, a 15-year-old sophomore on the day of the rampage, was among six victims who testified.
He wound up losing 40 pounds, dropping to 100, and spent weeks in intensive care. He said doctors gave him just a 20 percent chance to survive and only last month was he cleared to play sports again.
All of the victims have recovered, though some have lingering physical and emotional trauma. And all who testified said Hribal, who was 16 when he attacked them, should face adult consequences for his actions.
“I don’t really think they can fix people with a couple of pills so, definitely, adult court,” testified Connor Warwick, 17, who spent 33 days hospitalized with stomach, gall bladder and pancreas wounds.
Psychiatrists and psychologists earlier said medication has helped control Hribal’s depression and paranoid delusions, which they contend fueled the rampage.
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey objected to the victims’ opinions about whether Hribal should be tried as an adult, saying they’re irrelevant, but Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani disagreed.
Thomassey acknowledges Hribal, who will be 18 in October, sneaked two 8-inch kitchen knives into school. Of the victims’ testimony he said: “I knew it was going to be ugly, and it was.”
Defense psychiatrist Dr. Christine Martone testified Hribal believed he was being “egged on or controlled by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris from hell.”
The defense experts said Hribal was fascinated with the April 1999 shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Klebold and Harris killed themselves after killing 13 others, and Hribal carried out his attack on April 9, Harris’ birthday, only because school was out on his preferred target date, April 20, 2014, the 15th anniversary of Columbine.
The defense experts contend Hribal was psychotic and severely depressed and hoped to be killed by police. But now that the defense experts agreed Hribal’s no longer suicidal, they say he’s unlikely to do something similar.
This story has been corrected to show Hribal was 16, not 15, when he stabbed the other students.