A 10-year-old boy apparently angry that a 90-year-old woman had yelled at him held a cane against her throat and repeatedly punched her, killing her in her bed, prosecutors said.
Tristen Kurilla, a fifth grade student at Damascus Elementary School, was being held without bail Tuesday, charged as an adult with criminal homicide in the death of Helen Novak, a woman who was being cared for by his grandfather.
His attorney, Bernard Brown, said he would seek to have Kurilla released into his father's care at a bail hearing Wednesday.
Brown said he would also follow up with a request for a competency hearing, saying evidence gathered by prosecutors suggests Kurilla may have mental health issues. He said those issues could indicate he is not competent to stand trial and also may support the transfer of the case to juvenile court.
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State police said the beating occurred Saturday when the boy was visiting his grandfather's home in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Kurilla denied hurting the woman when he told his grandfather that the woman was "bleeding from her mouth," the prosecutor said. The grandfather checked on her, and the woman said she was OK, investigators said.
When the grandfather checked a second time, she was unresponsive, and he called 911, police said. The grandfather asked Kurilla again "if he had done something" to the woman and the boy said he had punched her and put a cane around her neck, said Wayne County District Attorney Janine Edwards.
Kurilla's mother brought him into a state police barracks later that day, reporting that he had gone into the woman's room and she had yelled at him. According to the mother, Kurilla told her that "he got mad, lost his temper and grabbed a cane and put it around Novak's throat," police said.
Advised of his rights and interviewed by a trooper, Kurilla said he "pulled Novak down on the bed and held the cane on her throat and then punched her numerous times," the prosecutor said.
The woman's injuries were found to be consistent with the boy's account, the prosecutor said.
An autopsy found blunt force trauma to the woman's neck, leading to the homicide finding.
The prosecutor said the crime of criminal homicide is excluded from juvenile law, requiring that the Kurilla be charged as an adult.
"The family is obviously an emotional wreck to have their 10-year-old removed from them and to know he is in a county correctional facility charged as an adult," Brown said.