LINCOLN — A prosecutor alleged Friday that Sarah Piccolo intended to do more than harm a fellow student when she took a knife and hammer to Lincoln's Pius X High School last month.
“Her motive was to quite simply kill as many people as she could,” Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Bruce Prenda told a judge as he argued against transferring Piccolo's case to juvenile court. Prenda did not elaborate on his comment at the hearing.
Attorney DeAnn Stover said her 16-year-old client has no criminal record, and she needs the treatment resources available in juvenile court. Stover also urged the judge to consider Piccolo's level of “sophistication and maturity.”
“It's apparent this was also a huge cry for help,” Stover said.
Lancaster County District Judge Jeffre Cheuvront told the attorneys he would need time to consider the arguments and evidence before making a ruling.
Piccolo faces charges of first-degree assault and use of a deadly weapon following the Oct. 7 attack at Lincoln's only Catholic high school. Piccolo, a junior who attended the school at the time, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Piccolo is accused of ambushing Pius X senior Ellen Kopetzky when she walked into a school bathroom. Kopetzky, 17, suffered knife cuts to her face and hands and was struck in the back of the head with the hammer.
Her hospital treatment included stitches and staples to close the wounds and head scans to check for brain damage, the prosecutor said. Had the 8-inch knife wielded in the attack hit her throat or eyes, the outcome could have been much worse, he said.
Kopetzky “faces a lifetime with emotional and physical scars for that one moment at school,” Prenda said.
As the prosecutor spoke, Piccolo dropped her head and sobbed.
Lincoln police have said they could find no connection between the students that would explain the assault. Nor was there evidence that Piccolo had received poor treatment at school or home, Prenda said.
“The evidence suggests this was a very troubled 16-year-old girl, and no one anticipated this behavior,” he said.
The prosecutor argued if Piccolo is transferred to juvenile court, supervision will end in about 2˝ years when she turns 19. That isn't sufficient, he argued.
If the judge tries Piccolo as an adult, he would still be able to order treatment and rehabilitative services. And the judge would keep the option of stronger punishment if she failed to respond to rehabilitation, Prenda said.
If convicted as an adult, Piccolo faces a minimum of one year in prison to a maximum of 50 years on each count. By law, any sentence for the weapon charge would have to be served after completing the term for assault.
The prosecutor submitted four exhibits as evidence, which included police reports along with photos of the victim's injuries and the crime scene. In addition, surveillance photos showed Piccolo's movement through the school before and after the assault.
He argued the evidence shows she carefully planned the attack along with an escape plan. She drove away from the school and made it to Yates Center, Kan., 250 miles south of Lincoln, before turning herself in the next day.
Finally, the prosecutor said that investigators recovered a note that said something about bringing “earplugs in case of a handgun.”
Stover told the judge Piccolo is currently receiving treatment, although she revealed no details about it. Transferring the case to juvenile court gives Piccolo the best chance to receive the help she needs, Stover added.