Something was wrong with Troy Hill Jr.
In summer 2007, his family started noticing the changes. The 18-year-old Waynesburg College football player believed his family was plotting against him, that voices were talking to him and that he smelled badly, even though he was taking showers several times a day.
During a visit to see his mother in Virginia, he said he would stab her boyfriend with a knife, and when he returned home to his father's house in Penn Hills, his paranoid and depressive behavior persisted.
These are the changes that Troy Hill Sr. described to a mobile crisis unit from Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC in Oakland when he called them to his home on Aug. 27, 2007, to examine his son, according to court documents. The unit, after conducting an examination, left Mr. Hill with a number to call if his son's condition worsened.
The next day, it did.
According to court documents, Troy Hill Jr. attacked his 11-year-old twin half-brothers with a knife, injuring Tyrel Hill and killing Tyron Hill.
The Hill family, alleging negligence and wrongful death, has filed a civil lawsuit against Western Psych requesting damages. On Wednesday, attorneys for the Hill family and for Western Psych met in a courtroom Downtown.
Western Psych had made a motion for summary judgment, but it was denied by a lower court. The hospital was permitted to file an intermediate appeal with the Superior Court, and arguments before that three-judge panel were heard Wednesday.
John Conti, the lead attorney representing Western Psych, said in an interview that it was wrong to think that every person with a mental health condition is prone to violence, and that the type of behavior committed by Mr. Hill "simply cannot be predicted with any certainty."
"The constraints on the ability of the mental health professionals to involuntarily commit someone are enormous, and he simply did not even come close to meeting the criteria for such commitment," he said.
"Western Psych's position is that the law is very clear that, tragic as the circumstances of the case may be, there is in no way a basis to sue the professionals who were attempting to provide care," he said.
But Neil Rosen, attorney for the Hill family, said the mobile crisis unit should have done more, such as warning the Hill family of the harm their son might pose, ensuring there were no weapons in the home and recommending they seek to have him committed.
"I think Western Psych just blew him off," he said in an interview.
"I think they blew this family off."
His clients are asking for a jury trial. Superior Court decisions are generally not issued for several months following oral arguments.
Troy Hill, who Mr. Rosen said was a new onset paranoid schizophrenic at the time of his brother's death, has not been tried criminally. He is receiving treatment at a location Mr. Rosen declined to disclose.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.