by TIM SHORTEN, Associated Press – RENO, Nev.
(AP) When a former high school classmate was charged with killing his former high-school classmate and his former girlfriend, it seemed a tragedy unfolding at a young age.
The Nevada Supreme Court in August acquitted former Nevada high school student Joseph Fialka on first-degree murder and attempted murder charges, and the former classmate had been charged in January with attempted murder, according to court documents.
A family attorney said Friday that Joseph Fiaka had been in an emotional breakdown since the case was first filed, and that he was trying to cope with the loss of his two young sons, ages 5 and 3.
The family attorney, Paul Pritchard, said his client has a lengthy criminal record.
He said Fialki was in counseling at the time of the trial and was receiving support from his wife, who was also in counseling.
The lawyer said Fiaki has a “very low” suicide risk.
In a news conference Friday, Pritcher said the Fialkas were “very fortunate” that they were able to recover from their tragedy and move forward with their lives.
They are hopeful the public can learn about their lives and the case and help them heal, Pitterch said.
“This case has brought out a lot of people’s humanity, and I think this case is going to be a catalyst for many others,” Pritch said in the news conference.
Fialka was a junior in high school when he was arrested last year in Las Vegas and charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of two girls.
In court documents, he said he was drinking heavily and was not under the influence of any substance when he allegedly killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself.
Prosecutors charged him with attempted first- and second-degree attempted murder of an officer and one count of attempted murder in connection with the killings of three others.
Fiaka pleaded not guilty to the charges, claiming he killed the girls because he was jealous of the young woman, his ex-girlfriend, and because he wanted revenge on the woman for the death of his wife.
The case was the latest in a string of high-profile killings and suicides in the U.S. that have spurred national attention on the need for mental health care.
In March, two women killed themselves in Arizona, the latest involving a young woman with bipolar disorder.
And in March, a gunman killed three people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
in an attack that prosecutors said was inspired by anti-police sentiment.
In June, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas was forced to cancel a graduation ceremony when the university’s board of trustees called for a mental health awareness event that was to have been a “safe space” for the campus community.