A western Pennsylvania church has been collecting money to help pay for the legal defense of a 16-year-old boy charged in the mass stabbing at nearby high school.
About $500 has been donated to the suspect, Alex Hribal, and his family, officials at Calvary Lutheran Church in Murrysville told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Hribal is incarcerated awaiting a preliminary hearing May 9 hearing on 21 counts of attempted homicide and other charges for allegedly taking two 8-inch kitchen knives and randomly stabbing students and a security guard at Franklin Regional High School on April 9. The school and church are about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh.
The suspect's family doesn't attend the church, where members are just trying to be compassionate to the suspect and his family, said congregation chairwoman Kristine Birus and the pastor, the Rev. David Weeks.
Birus said she's been stunned by the positive response. “We have cards and letters as well, just people wanting to express their concern,” Birus said.
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Weeks wasn't sure the gesture would be well-received but decided to take a chance.
“What we thought was, ‘We'll take a risk and see how the Lord wants this to play out -- good, bad or ugly,’” Weeks said.
The church has also taken donations for the victims, two of whom remained hospitalized in fair condition Thursday, and their families.
Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey, who has acknowledged Hribal committed the attacks, said the boy's family appreciates the gesture.
“This family has to defend this case, and it's going to be very expensive to do it,” Thomassey said.
The attorney must hire psychological experts and others to attempt to explain or understand the attacks. They'll be used first in an effort to get the case moved to juvenile court, where Hribal would face supervision or incarceration only until he's 21. If that fails, the experts could be used to mitigate prosecutors' expected request for a decades-long sentence if the case remains in adult court.
Birus said she wondered what happened to other perpetrators of school violence, and said the church is just trying to help the family deal with those eventualities.
“The family of the shooter, the attacker, the perpetrator, they drop off the face of the earth,” Birus said. “I wonder, what does the rest of their life look like?”