Tristen Kurilla: 10-year-old Charged as Adult in Helen Novak Murder

October 15, 2014 Updated: October 15, 2014

Tristen Kurilla is the 10-year-old who is accused of murdering 90-year-old Helen Novak in Pennsylvania.

The young boy told a Pennsylvania State Police detective “I killed that lady,” according to a criminal complaint posted online.

Tristen, who lives in Damascus, PA, said that he grabbed her cane and used it as a weapon, after he became angry with Novak when she yelled at him for walking into a room.

Tristen said that he wasn’t trying to kill her.

“I was only trying to hurt her,” he said. He later punched Novak numerous times in her threat.

Tristen was charged with numerous crimes, including criminal homicide and aggravated assault.

The alleged murder happened at the home of Novak’s grandfather Anthony Virbitsky, who is Novak’s grandfather.

Virbitsky went to check on Novak but she soon died. Tristen initially denied doing anything but later told his grandfather about the cane, and punches.

The incident on Saturday developed when Tristen’s mother Martha Virbitsky went to the state police barracks in Honesdale with her son and reported that her son told her that he had gone into Novak’s room at his grandfather’s home and Novak yelled at him, according to the district attorney’s press statement cited by the Pocono Record.

Martha Virbitsky told police that her son told her that he got angry, lost his temper, grabbed a cane and put it on Novak’s throat at his grandfather’s home earlier in the day. 

State trooper John Decker read Tristen his rights, and then proceeded to question him. Police say the boy then admitted to the attack.

Tristen’s lawyer withdrew a request for bail on Wednesday, saying his family isn’t ready to have him released into their custody.

The boy, who is charged as an adult with criminal homicide, appeared via a video hookup for a hearing, burying his face in his hands at times but not speaking.

Tristen’s family believes he is being treated well at the county prison, where he is being housed alone in a cell and being kept away from the general population, said his attorney, Bernard Brown. He said the boy was being provided recreational opportunities and coloring books.

Brown had filed a petition to have the boy released into the custody of his father or moved to a juvenile detention facility. But he said the family was not comfortable having him placed in their care right now. He didn’t elaborate on the reasons.

The closest juvenile detention center is 80 miles away, which would make family visits inconvenient, Brown said. Judge Raymond Hamill said he was also concerned about moving the boy to a juvenile center and exposing him to “elements more detrimental to his well-being.”

The attorney still plans to seek to have the case transferred to juvenile court.

The boy is among the youngest charged with homicide in Pennsylvania, a list that includes two 11-year-olds and a 9-year-old, said Marsha Levick, chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.

Levick said the case belongs in juvenile court, calling it a “no-brainer.”

“He’s a little boy,” she said. “It’s a horrible tragedy, but it’s shocking that he suddenly turned into an adult because of conduct that he engaged in.”

Prosecutors had said that they had no choice but to charge him as an adult. In Pennsylvania, homicide charges must be filed in adult court. Judges can then move the cases to juvenile court when deemed appropriate.

District Attorney Janine Edwards said she will wait for the results of a mental health evaluation before deciding whether to contest having the case moved to juvenile court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber