OREM, Utah – Victims of a Utah high school locker room stabbing described the horror and shock they endured during a November attack and talked Tuesday in court about the anger and confusion they've felt about being attacked by a classmate.
Two victims and several of their parents spoke at a court hearing in which the 16-year-old suspect signed off on an agreement that stipulates he'll face one count of attempted aggravated murder in adult court and likely serve time in adult prison.
In the meantime, he'll spend time in a secure juvenile justice facility where he'll get treatment and rehabilitation after he admitted to four other counts of aggravated attempted murder.
The five victims survived but several suffered serious injuries in a Nov. 15 attack prosecutors have described as a "rampage of violence" that triggered fear and panic among students and parents with victims running from the locker room covered in blood and the school placed on lockdown.
The suspect didn't speak, sitting quietly throughout the hearing, but his parents said they were profoundly sorry for their son's actions and that an onslaught of mental illness surprisingly overtook him before the attack.
"We are shocked, confused and heart broken. We continue to search for answers," the suspect's dad said. "Mental illness is complex and it may be a long time, or never, that we fully understand what happened with our son that he decided to hurt others as part of his attempt to end his own life."
One teenager stabbed in the neck said he went to the locker room that morning at Mountain View High School in Orem, 40 miles south of Salt Lake City, to get ready to lift weights when he saw the suspect standing over another victim.
"He looked at me with a face I've never seen before," said the teenager recounting what happened before he was stabbed. "His face had anger and was emotionless."
He said his doctor told him the wound came within two milliliters of hitting a vein that would have killed him. His mother said her son is more withdrawn since the events and is dealing with negativity that has set him back.
"It make me angry and confuses me why he would do this to innocent people," the teenager said. "I don't feel safe at high school anymore."
The Associated Press is not identifying the victims, their parents or the suspect and his parents because of the ages of those involved.
The suspect had no previous criminal incidents, said Juvenile Court Judge Douglas Nielsen. He wished the boy the best but told him he needed to "pay a price" for his actions.
Sam Pead, Utah County deputy attorney, said the agreement splitting the case between juvenile court and adult court balances the need to get the suspect help while ensuring he is punished adequately.
Several parents told the suspect's parents in court that they don't blame them, feel for their pain and hope the boy gets help.
Another victim who was stabbed repeatedly in both sides of his neck and suffered major nerve damage that has severely limited the use of his right shoulder said he remembers someone running past him that day yelling, "Run, run, run, he's got a knife."
The boy said he thought it was a prank until he felt a sharp object going into his neck. He fell to the ground in shock, yelling out in pain, he said.
"I thought, 'This is how I'm going to die,'" he said. "I wasn't scared. It was almost peaceful that I would be leaving such a scary situation."
The suspect later came back and stabbed him repeatedly in the other side of the neck. He remembered reading in a survival book about playing dead and took one deep breath and stopped breathing, he said.
After the suspect left, he tried getting up but was slipping in blood, he said.