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article image5th grader charged with strangling, beating 90-year-old to death

By Greta McClain     Oct 16, 2014 in Crime
Damascus - A 10-year-old boy has been charged with criminal homicide and may be tried as an adult after he admitted to strangling and beating an elderly woman to death.
The incident occurred shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday while Tristen Kurilla, a fifth grader at Damascus Area School in Pennsylvania, was visiting the home of his grandfather, Anthony Virbitsky.
During the visit, Kurilla reportedly entered the room of 90-year-old Helen Novak, a woman whom Virbitsky cares for. Kurilla told police that Novak yelled at him when he entered her room, causing the boy to become angry. According to Fox8, Kurilla then picked up a cane and began strangling Novak before striking her several times in the throat and stomach.
Following the assualt, Kurilla reportedly told Virbisky that Novak was bleeding from the her mouth. Virbisky checked on Novak and told Kurilla that she was fine. He then asked the boy if he had done anything to Novak, who said "No." Virbisky checked on Novak again at around 11 a.m. and upon finding her unresponsive, dialed 911. He again asked Kurilla if he had done something to Novak, at which time the boy admitted to hitting Novak and strangling her with the cane.
At around 3:15 p.m., the boy's mother, Martha Virbitsky, took Kurilla to the Honesdale state police barracks and told troopers that the boy had admitted to strangling and beating Novak. She also advised them that he had been violent in the past and had "mental difficulties." During an interview, troopers asked Kurilla if he was trying to kill Novak, at which time he said:
“No, I was only trying to hurt her.”
According to the affidavit, Novak died from severe hemorrhaging and swelling in her neck.
Kurilla was arrested and booked into the Wayne County Correctional Facility, charged as an adult on two felony counts; criminal homicide and aggravated assault. During a news conference, Wayne County district attorney Janine Edwards explained that Pennsylvania law mandates all criminal homicide charges be filed through the adult court system, regardless of the age of the suspect. She went on to say:
"It is not a choice I made, it’s not a choice the warden made. It’s not a choice Pennsylvania State Police made.”
Bernard Brown, attorney for Kurilla, plans to file a petition with the Wayne County Court requesting the case to be transferred to juvenile court. Despite Kurilla's young age, having the case transferred to the juvenile court may prove difficult. Marsha Levick, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, says prosecutors typically argue against having homicide cased transferred to the juvenile court system. Levick contends however that children as young as Kurilla cannot fully comprehend the consequences of their actions. She told The Times Tribune:
“Kids should be held accountable. This is a very tragic, horrible event, but he [Kurilla] can be held accountable in a developmentally appropriate way. For a 10-year-old that means the juvenile justice system, not the criminal justice system.”
More about Tristen Kurilla, Murder, criminal homcide, Arrest, Child
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