A 10-year-old boy, Tristen Kurilla, will be charged as an adult in the murder of a 90-year-old woman from Tyler Hill, Penn., who was beaten to death in the home of the boy’s grandfather on Saturday. Kurilla was visiting his grandfather and apparently became angry when the woman, Helen Novak, yelled at him. Novak was at the house while being taken care of by the boy’s grandfather, Anthony Virbitsky. When Virbitsky checked on her he did not notice blood, but did see that she was having difficulty breathing. He asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital, but she said no. When he checked on her an hour later, she was dead.
Following the incident, Kurilla’s mother, Martha Virbitsky, took her son in to the police at Honesdale, a town about 140 miles north of Philadelphia. She explained to them that her son had visited the woman in her room, and that at some point she wound up yelling at him. This caused the boy to lose his temper and he attacked her. The boy later said that he had only wanted to ask her a question. After the attack, Triston Kurilla had gone to his grandfather and told him that the woman was bleeding from her mouth. Initially he denied having done anything to harm her. Later on, however, he did admit to using a cane to press against her throat, as well as striking her repeatedly with his fists.
The boy’s mother stated that her son had given her trouble in the past, and that he has a history of mental problems. Police confirmed that an autopsy had been performed at the Wayne County Hospital, which showed that the wounds mostly showed that blunt force had been used around the neck area of the victim. Dr. Gary Ross, who conducted the autopsy, said that the wounds were consistent with the police account of the incident as told by the boy. The death has been ruled as murder.
Prosecutors in Wayne County will charge the 10-year-old boy as an adult on charges of criminal homicide and aggravated assault in the murder of the 90-year-old woman. The boy was interviewed by a trooper, and advised of his rights. The boy is being held without bail until a preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for Oct. 22. His lawyer, Bernie Brown, is petitioning the court to release Kurilla, claiming that the boy does not fully understand what is going on. Also, he argued, jail is always a tough place, so he is trying to transfer the case to juvenile court.
Janine Edwards, the Wayne County District Attorney, maintained that Pennsylvania law made Kurilla’s being prosecuted as an adult mandatory. A criminal homicide charge needed to be filed by the prosecutor no matter the age of the perpetrator. She stated that it was not her choice, and added that a juvenile detention center would not allow a child charged with murder.
Some residents have voiced their disapproval that a fifth-grade boy will be charged as an adult in the murder of the 90-year-old woman, and that a 10-year-old is being locked up in county jail. The child has been separated from adult offenders and is under constant supervision.
By Charles Bordeau