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Police say 10-year-old killed elderly woman because she yelled at him

Pennsylvania police say a 10-year-old has confessed to killing 90-year-old Helen Novak in his grandfather’s home. Fifth grader Tristen Kurilla is being charged with murder as an adult.

Novak was living in the care of the boy’s grandfather. Kurilla lashed out at the elderly woman after she yelled at him for entering her room. According to police reports, the boy did not intend to kill her and told authorities that he was only trying to hurt her — a statement that’s equally unsettling.

According to autopsy reports, Novak died of blunt force trauma to the neck. Kurilla described taking her cane and holding it up against her neck while punching her in the throat and stomach. With such a violent act carried out against a defenseless elderly woman, it’s easy to see why the boy is being charged as an adult. Even if the woman’s death wasn’t completely intentional, it was a homicide. That kind of trauma doesn’t happen from a glancing blow. Pressing a cane to the neck of another human being is an intimate, heinous act of violence. If the boy was capable of this kind of deadly violence out of anger, had he already harmed others?

The boy’s mother, Martha Virbitsky, told state police that her son has been violent in the past, and that he has mental difficulties. It’s unclear whether or not Kurilla has been diagnosed with a mental health or behavioral disorder. Virbitsky did the right thing by taking her son to the police station to report his confession, but it must have been unimaginably difficult. She had to have known the authorities would detain him, but when faced with her own child confessing to murder she had no other choice.

The boy is now being held at Wayne County Correctional Facility without bail and has a court date on Oct. 22.

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