Man Charged in Children's Elevator Stabbing

It was a random act of violence that left a 6-year-old boy dead and his 7-year-old friend fighting for her life. Prince Joshua (P.J.) Avitto and Makayla Cooper had been playing outside with their families when the two decided to run inside to get a popsicle. Reports say the children were chatting happily in the elevator when a belligerent 220 lb. stranger told them to "shut up" before savagely attacking them with a steak knife. Last week's brutal attack killed 6-year-old P.J. and put Makayla in critical condition with at least 16 stab wounds. It launched a manhunt that led to Thursday's arrest of Daniel St. Hubert, a recent parolee who is thought to be connected with two more violent assaults in New York. St. Hubert is described as a paranoid schizophrenic who was released from prison on May 23 after serving time for attempting to strangle his mother with an electrical cord in 2009. Within a week and a half of his release, St. Hubert allegedly stabbed four people, two of them fatally. In addition to the attack on the children in the Brooklyn elevator, he is suspected in the stabbing death of an 18-year-old college student, Tanaya Copeland, just a week after his release, and a 53-year-old homeless man, Kyle Moore, early Wednesday morning. Two murders and two attempted murders in a week and a half--how could this happen? St. Hubert's sister claims she begged for help for her brother, saying that he was dangerous to himself and others if not properly medicated and supervised. She says she asked authorities for help both prior to and after his release, but the man with a violent history and evident mental illness was essentially unleashed upon an unsuspecting city. Reports say St. Hubert met with his parole officer just days after stabbing the children, but clearly, weekly meetings with a parole officer were not enough to prevent a man plagued by schizophrenia and drug-induced psychosis from violent random attacks. New York has a law intended to protect the public from the violently mentally ill while preserving the personal rights of those plagued by mental illness. Kendra's Law was named for a young woman who was killed after being shoved into the path of a subway by a man who was not being treated for his mental illness. According to the New York State Office of Mental Health, Kendra's Law "provides for assisted outpatient treatment for certain people with mental illness who, in view of their treatment history and present circumstances, are unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision." Although St. Hubert underwent numerous mental health exams and was thrice declared unfit for trial,  and despite the facts he had a violent criminal history, he served time for the attempted murder of his mother, and his sister begged for help, officials say his crimes would not have qualified him for help under Kendra's Law. Mayor Bill de Blasio bemoaned the status of mental health care in New York and in the nation at large, saying, "There's a fundamental problem in this city, in this state, in this country—that the prison system has been used as a de facto mental health system for too many individuals." And therein lies the problem: how do we provide services for the mentally ill without infringing on their personal privacy rights? How to we protect the public from violent offenders whose actions are motivated by illness rather than malice? Clearly, there is a gray line where criminal justice meets mental health care; this issue needs immediate attention.

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