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Pennsylvania school stabbing suspect's attorney discounts bullying

MONROEVILLE, Pa. -- The attorney for the 16-year-old suspect in a high school stabbing rampage discounted bullying as a motive, saying Thursday that Alex Hribal had endured some teasing from classmates but nothing "overbearing" that would equate to bullying.

After meeting with Alex Hribal for several hours at a juvenile jail, attorney Patrick Thomassey said the motivation for Wednesday’s mayhem at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville remained a “mystery” to him and the boy’s parents because Hribal doesn’t have any history of mental illness or violent behavior. He was a good student and not a loner, Thomassey told the Los Angeles Times during an interview at his office.

"Obviously something went awfully wrong in this young man's life, and I'm going to get to the bottom of it," the attorney said.

The teasing Hribal endured wasn’t the “overbearing kind” that would amount to bullying, he said.

"I don't see anything that I would call bullying in the classic sense that we would think of, somebody knocking somebody around or somebody psychiatrically bullying somebody,” Thomassey said. “I would say just the normal problems between young men in school, nothing that I think would lead to this.”

Hribal kept busy playing and following hockey, according to his attorney and some of Hribal's posts on a Facebook page that friends said was his. Friends and neighbors have described him as a shy, back-of-the-classroom student.

Authorities are keeping an eye on Hribal’s mood at the detention center, where his parents visited him Thursday, the attorney said.   

"He's better today than he was last night,” Thomassey said. “I think it's sinking in the predicament that he's in and we're going to try to figure it all out."

The attorney added that the teenager’s parents were sorrowful for what their son is accused of doing. He has been charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide, 21 counts of aggravated assault and one count of possession of a weapon on campus. He’s scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing April 30.

Thomassey, who plans to visit Hribal again Friday, wants the sophomore to undergo mental health examinations before the preliminary hearing. The attorney plans to ask a judge to transfer the case to a juvenile court, where Hribal would remain in custody only until age 21. That could happen only if he is seen as amenable to treatment in the juvenile system.

If convicted as an adult, Hribal could face decades in prison, his attorney said.

richard.simon@latimes.com

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