DAMASCUS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — “I killed that lady,” the 10-year-old boy told a Pennsylvania state trooper, after a 90-year-old woman was found dead in the home of the boy’s grandfather.
Tristen Kurilla, a fifth grader, made the chilling confession Saturday, police said, after his mother brought him to the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks in Honesdale, Pa., about 140 miles north of Philadelphia.
Now, Kurilla is being held at the Wayne County Correctional Facility and charged as an adult with criminal homicide, the Wayne County district attorney’s office said. The boy is separated from adult offenders and is being constantly supervised, WBRE reported.
The boy admitted to grabbing a wooden cane, holding it against 90-year-old Helen Novak’s throat for several seconds and punching her in the throat and stomach, according to the police affidavit.
Kurilla told police he was angry at Novak because she had yelled at him when he entered her room. He said he wanted to ask her a question.
“Were you trying to kill her?” the trooper asked the boy.
“No, I was only trying to hurt her,” Kurilla replied, according to the affidavit.
The boy was ordered to be held without bail after his arraignment and is set to appear in court Oct. 22.
Bernie Brown, his lawyer, said he was petitioning the court to get the fifth-grade Damascus Elementary School student out of jail, WBRE reported.
“Tristen really kind of doesn’t have an idea of what is going on,” Brown told the station.
Brown added, “Jail is still jail, no matter what part of the facility you are in.”
Brown also can petition a judge to transfer the case to juvenile court.
Janine Edwards, Wayne County district attorney, said Pennsylvania law made it mandatory “that a criminal homicide charge be first directly filed in adult court by the prosecutor regardless of the age of the perpetrator,” WBRE reported.
“It is not a choice I made,” she told the station, adding that a juvenile detention center will not accept a child charged with homicide. “It’s not a choice the warden made. It’s not a choice Pennsylvania State Police made.”
The age of the defendant was unusual, she told the station.
“That’s not something I’ve seen,” she said. “I’m not sure how many times that’s been seen in Pennsylvania or not.”
Police were initially called to the home of Kurilla’s grandfather, Anthony Virbitsky, in Damascus Township on Saturday morning with a report that an elderly woman had died there, the affidavit said. Virbitsky was the woman’s caretaker, authorities said.
The county coroner responded to the home, found Novak’s body and transported it to the morgue, the affidavit stated.
A few hours later, the boy’s mother, Martha Virbitsky, appeared at the state police post with her son and told Trooper John Decker that the boy had confessed to killing Novak, the affidavit said.
The boy’s mother told police that she “has had a lot of trouble with Tristen and that he has some mental difficulties” and had been violent in the past, the affidavit said.
Kurilla had told his grandfather that Novak was bleeding from the mouth, but denied having done anything to her, Decker wrote in the affidavit.
Anthony Virbitsky told police he checked on Novak but found no blood, although she was breathing heavily. He asked her if she wanted to go to a hospital, the affidavit said, but she refused. When he went to check on her less than an hour later, she was dead, Virbitsky told police, and then his grandson confessed that he had hit her.
An autopsy performed Monday discovered “blunt force trauma to Novak’s neck” and her death was ruled a homicide, the district attorney’s statement said.
Some residents in Damascus Township took issue with locking up the boy in the county jail.
“I know they see a lot of things but I don’t think that they understand what they’re doing,” Kristy Tirney told WBRE. “I don’t know.”