Family of accused teen killer sues mental health providers

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
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WILKES-BARRE — The parents of a teen accused of breaking into a family’s home and stabbing a man to death have sued several children’s mental health providers, claiming they failed to prevent his violent outbursts.

The suit was filed exactly two years after the incident took place.

Zachary Lee Hockenberry, 16, allegedly broke into the home of the Sinoracki family on Sept. 11, 2016. There, he allegedly stabbed David Sinoracki, 45; his wife, Bobbi Jo Sinoracki, 36; and their 17-year-old daughter, Megan Sinoracki, at their Kingston Township residence. David Sinoracki died of his wounds.

The Trucksville teen was 14 at the time of the attack. He was deemed to be incompetent to stand trial by Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough in June 2017, and Vough issued a further order this May that Hockenberry must remain in Norristown State Hospital for continuing treatment.

On Tuesday, Hockenberry’s parents, Diane and Lee Hockenberry, filed a suit against KidsPeace and the Children’s Service Center of Wyoming Valley, along with numerous medical professionals, claiming they failed to accurately diagnose their son and prevent the attacks.

While Hockenberry’s full name is left out of the suit, as he is still a minor, the details contained therein match the details of the attack.

The litigation was filed through the family’s attorneys, Matthew Weisberg of Philadelphia-based Weisberg Law, and Gary Schafkopf, of Schafkopf Law in Bala Cynwyd.

According to the suit, Hockenberry was diagnosed at age 6 with having an “arteriovenus malformation (AVM) on the left parietal region of his brain,” a neuropsychological condition that the suit explains could lead to schizophrenic-like psychosis.

In 2016, months before the attack, Hockenberry allegedly began to exhibit “concerning behavior” toward his family, including aggression and paranoia.

Hockenberry’s parents took him to the Children’s Service Center, meeting with Dr. Muhammad Khan, who the suit claims monitored his behavior.

During an evaluation of Hockenberry at the center, Dr. Shiva Rezvan-Homami wrote in a report that it had been noted by a behavioral specialist that it was “a miracle that he has not been hospitalized, has not been sent to rehab, or arrested,” the lawsuit states.

Hockenberry allegedly threatened to kill his father Lee in late August, leading to him being transported first to a Geisinger hospital — the suit does not specify which one and Geisinger is not a defendant in the case — before being subsequently transferred to KidsPeace in Bethlehem.

‘Explosive outbursts’

A doctor at KidsPeace, Dr. Mahmoud Elfatah, told Hockenberry’s parents — based on the teen’s medical and behavioral history — he “was not comfortable having him there and that admissions should not have accepted him.”

Hockenberry was discharged the next day, with a prescription for a new psychosis medication, after just two days at the hospital.

He was readmitted the next day, however, due to mother Diane’s concerns about his aggression. He remained in the hospital from Aug. 26 to Sept. 8, 2016. During this time, the suit claims he had “several explosive outbursts.”

He was ultimately discharged, when the family claims he had more outbursts, leading them to contact counselors from KidsPeace, identified by only the first names Mary and Bernie in the suit. On Sept. 10, the family began to try to organize a meeting with at least one of the counselors, but that meeting did not come to fruition before the attack on the Sinoracki family.

The Hockenberry family is accusing the two facilities and several medical professionals — including Mary and Bernie — of negligence, breach of duty and breach of contract by allegedly failing to prevent Hockenberry’s behavior from escalating.

The family is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

KidsPeace did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. A Children’s Service Center representative declined to comment, saying officials there had not yet read the suit.

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By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan