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POLICE SEEK MOTIVE OF SCHOOL STABBING RAMPAGE

Thursday, 10 April 2014 07:08 Published in National News

MURRYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) -- It was just before the start of class and the hallways were packed as usual with students at their lockers or chatting with friends.

Nate Moore was walking to homeroom, book in hand, when a classmate he knew to be quiet and unassuming tackled a freshman boy a few feet in front of him. Moore thought it was the start of a fistfight and went to break it up.

But 16-year-old Alex Hribal wasn't throwing punches - he was stabbing his victim in the belly, Moore said. The suspect got up and slashed Moore's face, then took off down the hall, where authorities said he stabbed and slashed other students in an attack that injured 21 students and a security guard - and might have been even worse but for the "heroes" who Pennsylvania's governor said helped prevent further injury or loss of life.

An assistant principal tackled and subdued Hribal, who was charged Wednesday night with four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault and jailed without bail. Authorities said he would be prosecuted as an adult.

The suspect's motive remained a mystery.

"He wasn't saying anything," Moore recalled hours later. "He didn't have any anger on his face. It was just a blank expression."

At a brief hearing Wednesday night, District Attorney John Peck said that after he was taken into custody, Hribal made comments suggesting he wanted to die. Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey described him as a good student who got along with others, and asked for a psychiatric examination.

At least five students were critically wounded in the attack, including a boy who was on a ventilator after a knife pierced his liver, missing his heart and aorta by only millimeters, doctors said. He had an additional surgery overnight, they said.

The rampage comes after decades in which U.S. schools have focused their emergency preparedness on mass shootings, not stabbings.

While knife attacks at schools are not unusual, they're most often limited to a single victim, said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Nevertheless, there have been at least two major stabbing attacks at U.S. schools over the past year, the first at a community college in Texas last April that wounded at least 14 people, and another, also in Texas, that killed a 17-year-old student and injured three others at a high school last September.

The attack in Pittsburgh unfolded shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday, a few minutes before the start of classes at 1,200-student Franklin Regional High School, in an upper-middle-class area 15 miles east of Pittsburgh. By Thursday morning, the school was no longer being treated as a crime scene, according to police and school officials, who said they expected it to reopen Monday.

Mia Meixner, 16, said the freshman boy who was tackled tried to fight back, then, when his assailant got off him, stood up and lifted his shirt to reveal a midsection covered in blood.

"He had his shirt pulled up and he was screaming, `Help! Help!'" said another witness, Michael Float, 18. "He had a stab wound right at the top right of his stomach, blood pouring down."

As students rushed to the boy's aid, the attacker slashed Moore before taking off around a bend.

"It was really fast. It felt like he hit me with a wet rag because I felt the blood splash on my face. It spurted up on my forehead," said Moore, whose gashed right cheek required 11 stitches.

The boy ran down about 200 feet of hallway, slashing and stabbing other students with kitchen knives about 8 to 10 inches long, police said. The assault touched off a "stampede of kids" yelling, "Run! Get out of here! Someone has a knife!" according to Meixner.

Assistant Principal Sam King heard the commotion and found a chaotic scene in the blood-soaked hall.

"I've been stabbed," he heard a student say.

King then saw Hribal stab a security guard, who leaned against the wall, bleeding from his stomach, according to a police affidavit. King tackled Hribal and kept him on the floor until a school police officer handcuffed him.

The rampage lasted about five minutes.

"There are a number of heroes in this day. Many of them are students," Gov. Tom Corbett said in a visit to the stricken town. "Students who stayed with their friends and didn't leave their friends."

He also commended cafeteria workers, teachers and teacher's aides who put themselves at risk to help others.

Looking for a motive, Murrysville Police Chief Thomas Seefeld said investigators were checking reports of a threatening phone call between Hribal and another student the night before. He didn't say whether the suspect received or made the call.

The FBI went to the boy's house, and local media reports said agents removed at least one computer along with other items.

Meixner and Moore called the attacker a shy and quiet boy who largely kept to himself, but they said he was not an outcast and they saw no indication before the attack that he might be violent.

"He was never mean to anyone, and I never saw people be mean to him," Meixner said. "I never saw him with a particular group of friends."

During the attack, the boy had a "blank look," she said. "He was just kind of looking like he always does, not smiling, not scowling or frowning."

---

Associated Press writers Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania, Joe Mandak in Pittsburgh and JoAnn Loviglio in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

MUDSLIDE SURVIVOR HOLDING SON DESCRIBES TERROR

Thursday, 10 April 2014 06:59 Published in National News

SEATTLE (AP) -- The lights in Amanda Skorjanc's home started to flicker and shake. When she looked outside, she saw a cascade of mud and debris crashing down the hillside and nearby houses "exploding" from its force.

Moments earlier she was watching videos with her infant son, and now she saw a neighbor's chimney barreling toward her door. Skorjanc gripped her son tightly and turned away.

"I held onto that baby like it was the only purpose that I had," she said. "I did not let that baby go for one second."

When it was over, the powerful mudslide had destroyed Skorjanc's entire rural Washington community, killing at least 36 people and destroying dozens of homes.

Skorjanc and her baby were among the few pulled from the rubble alive. On Wednesday, the 25-year-old mother gave her first interview about the March 22 ordeal from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she remains hospitalized.

Skorjanc is starting to recover physically from several broken bones and six surgeries, but she and her doctor acknowledged the emotional healing will take a very long time. Certain sounds bring Skorjanc right back to that frightening Saturday morning.

"If the wind blows too hard. If someone is pushing a bed past me, and it rumbles the floor a bit. It brings back the same sight over and over again," Skorjanc told a pool of reporters from The Daily Herald, KOMO-TV and KIRO Radio.

When the earth stopped moving after the mudslide, Skorjanc was trapped in a pocket formed by her damaged couch and pieces of her roof. She had two broken legs and a broken arm.

Skorjanc said she called out to God to save her and her baby and prayed rescuers would arrive quickly and find them.

"I started to hear sirens - the most amazing sound I ever heard," she said.

Skorjanc remembers hearing the voices of several men coming to her aid. They lifted her son from her arms and cut her from the debris.

"I had my eyes closed," Skorjanc remembers. "I didn't want to see what was going on. I was scared and in so much pain."

One of her ankles was crushed and might not recover fully. She also suffered injuries to her face, including an eye socket. Her doctor said she will need to be off her feet for another 10 weeks, then likely will struggle to start walking again.

Skorjanc said she considered the destroyed community of Oso home, although she grew up in Indiana and has lived in Washington for just the past two years. But she has no plans to return to the rural community 55 miles northeast of Seattle, not even for a visit.

She said she struggles with guilt daily, because she has her family - including her partner, Ty Suddarth, the father of her child - and others who lived in Oso don't. Suddarth had left the house to run an errand when the mudslide hit.

Dr. Daphne Beinggessner, a University of Washington orthopedic surgeon, operated on Skorjanc three times and estimated her physical injuries will take a year or more to heal.

She added that the recovery of Skorjanc's son, Duke Suddarth, seems to be really making a difference in the young mother's improvement: "As he's been getting better, she's been getting better."

Skorjanc said she will work hard to get better to be there for her son, who is being treated at Seattle Children's Hospital. She said his injuries included a skull fracture. "He's my motivation."

The rest of her energy will go toward giving back to the community.

"I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of love and support we get every day," Skorjanc said. "We will pay it forward for the rest of our lives."

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

POLICE SEEK DRIVER IN DEADLY FLA. DAY CARE CRASH

Thursday, 10 April 2014 06:57 Published in National News

WINTER PARK, Fla. (AP) -- The man with a long history of arrests whom authorities are seeking in a deadly car crash into a Florida day care center was the driver of the vehicle that fled the scene, the Florida Highway Patrol said early Thursday.

The agency had previously called 26-year-old Robert Alex Corchado a "person of interest" in the Wednesday afternoon crash. On Thursday, spokeswoman Wanda Diaz said in a statement that Corchado - who has been arrested eight times since 2000 - was driving a Dodge Durango that struck a Toyota Solaro convertible, which jumped a curb and smashed into the KinderCare building in the Orlando area. One girl died. Fourteen other people, mostly children, were injured. The convertible's driver wasn't injured.

Local television footage showed small children and infants in cribs being taken outside to the day care's playground. Several of the injured were carried out on stretchers.

Late Wednesday afternoon, parents could be seen waiting to pick up their children, and then clutching them in their arms as they were escorted to their vehicles by authorities.

Authorities said Wednesday that they were searching for Corchado, who they believed was heading to Orlando International Airport in an attempt to flee the area.

A man answered the phone for a number listed to Corchado and hung up when he was asked, "May I speak to Robert Corchado?"

Corchado's most recent arrest, in December, was on a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a crash involving damage, a felony charge of selling narcotics, and felony marijuana possession. He was released on more than $10,000 bond and pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense attorney in that case, Jack Kaleita, didn't return a phone call or email after business hours.

Department of Corrections records show Corchado has served prison time for trafficking cocaine and extortion.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs called the crash an "absolute tragedy and disaster."

Diaz said a girl died at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, but she didn't have any more details. One person at the hospital was in critical condition and five others were in serious condition, said spokeswoman Katie Dagenais.

In all, 13 people were hospitalized, including the girl who died from her injuries, and two others were treated at the scene, authorities said. Eleven of the injured were children, said John Mulhall, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Rescue.

Several of the injured at the KinderCare building in Winter Park were reported to be in "very, very serious condition," Diaz said.

The day care's website says the center provides childcare and learning opportunities for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years old and has been in the community for more than 25 years.

Gov. Rick Scott released a statement saying, "As a grandfather of three young children, I can't imagine losing such a precious life at such a young age. Today's hit-and-run was an act of cowardice, and members of the Florida Highway Patrol are working closely with local law enforcement to bring those who caused this crash to justice."

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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