Plea negotiations are occurring in the case of a now-20-year-old charged with stabbing 20 fellow students and a security guard at his suburban Pittsburgh high school, attorneys said.
"I think there is a good chance it will be resolved before trial," defense attorney Patrick Thomassey told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday.
Thomassey was referring to 21 counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault, plus a weapons charge, pending against Alex Hribal.
The then-16-year-old Hribal slashed his way through the hallways of Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville before classes began on April 9, 2014, using two 8-inch kitchen knives he took from home.
Four students were critically injured and one required a liver transplant as a result of his injuries, but all the victims survived and have since recovered.
Thomassey has always acknowledged Hribal committed the crimes, but tried to have his client declared legally insane.
Defense and prosecution psychiatrists have testified Hribal purposely carried out the attack on the birthday of Eric Harris, one of two teens the doctors say Hribal "worshipped" for their attacks on Columbine High School near Denver on April 20, 1999. Hribal first hoped to commit the attacks on the 15th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, but couldn't because school wasn't in session that day.
But after extensive hearings on Hribal's mental state last year, Westmoreland County Judge Christopher Feliciani in February refused to allow Hribal to plead guilty but mentally ill to the crimes.
Had the judge allowed that, Hribal would have begun serving whatever prison term he receives in a mental hospital, then been transferred to prison if doctors ever deemed him cured. Absent that, Hribal is facing the potential of decades in prison.
District Attorney John Peck confirmed the plea discussions to the newspaper. On Thursday, he declined to offer specifics to The Associated Press beyond saying his concern for the victims remains "paramount." Thomassey didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.
Peck plans to meet with the victims sometime next week in preparation for the Nov. 13, trial but wouldn't say whether he'll discuss any plea negotiations with them, too.
A pretrial conference had been scheduled for Oct. 16, but Thomassey has asked to delay that because of a scheduling conflict. It's not been rescheduled, but when it is, could make clear whether a plea deal has been struck.