Teen Murder Suspect’s Parents Target Doctors In Suit
WILKES-BARRE — The parents of the Back Mountain teen accused of murdering a man in front of his family filed suit Tuesday against two medical providers, alleging doctors failed to heed numerous warning signs of violence.
Zachary Lee Hockenberry, now 16, is accused of fatally stabbing David Sinoracki, 45, during an attack inside Sinoracki’s home on Sept. 11, 2016. Hockenberry also stabbed Sinoracki’s wife Bobbi Jo Sinoracki, and their then-17-year-old daughter, Megan, both of whom survived.
Hockenberry remains in custody at Norristown State Hospital after Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough deemed him incompetent to stand trial on murder and aggravated assault charges.
Hockenberry suffers from an arteriovenous malformation, a tangle of abnormal blood vessels in the brain that can cause seizures and confusion. That condition is what the lawsuit alleges doctors at KidsPeace National Centers of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Service Center of Wyoming Valley failed to properly treat.
“Defendants were aware of (Zachary Hockenberry’s) increased danger to himself and others and failed to act in order to prevent (Zachary Hockenberry) from hurting himself or others,” Morton-based attorney Matthew B. Weisberg wrote in the complaint. “Defendants failed to adhere to the standard of care required of psychologists and have caused great economic and emotional harm to plaintiffs.”
According to the complaint, Hockenberry was diagnosed with the condition, which can cause psychosis, at age 6, but it wasn’t until 2016 that his parents noticed changes in his behavior.
As Hockenberry began showing signs of paranoia and aggression, parents Diane and Lee Hockenberry contacted the Children’s Service Center. During an evaluation in August 2015, a doctor noted Zachary Hockenberry’s behavioral specialist consultant observed that it was “a miracle” that he had not been hospitalized or arrested, the complaint says.
In August 2016, Zachary Hockenberry threatened to kill his father and his parents called the police, according to the complaint.
Zachary Hockenberry was taken to KidsPeace in Bethlehem, and his parents agreed to leave him there after being informed he would not be involuntarily committed, the suit says. But a doctor subsequently informed the parents that Zachary Hockenberry should not have been admitted, and he was discharged two days later after being given a new psychosis medication, the complaint says.
Zachary Hockenberry continued acting aggressively, and his mother called the doctor back the day after he was discharged to express her concerns, according to the suit. He was then readmitted and remained in treatment until mere days before the murder, the lawsuit says.
During that time, he had several “explosive outbursts,” including punching another patient and hitting the walls, according to the suit.
Despite his parents’ concerns about a discharge, Zachary Hockenberry was released on Sept. 8, 2016, the suit alleges.
Zachary Hockenberry began sitting out on the front porch all night and having outbursts, prompting the parents to “continuously” contact KidsPeace and the Children’s Service Center, the complaint says. Both agencies told them to let Zachary Hockenberry “cool off,” according to the suit.
On Sept. 10, 2016, Diane Hockenberry called a counsellor asking for help calming her son down, but the only counsellor available was a man, the complaint says.
Because Zachary Hockenberry was acting aggressively toward men, the Children’s Service Center did not send out a counsellor that night, although a female counsellor was supposed to visit the next day, according to the suit.
However, on Sept. 11, 2016, Zachary Hockenberry went over to the Sinoracki home and began stabbing Bobbi Jo Sinoracki in the back as she vacuumed the house, according to prosecutors. Zachary Hockenberry also stabbed the 17-year-old daughter and plunged the knife into David Sinoracki’s chest during the attack, delivering a fatal wound, prosecutors say.
The lawsuit names as defendants KidsPeace and its doctor, Mahmoud Elfatah, as well as the Children’s Service Center and its personnel, Drs. Shiva Rezvan-Homami and Muhammad Khan and counsellors identified in the suit only as “Mary” and “Bernie.”
The complaint alleges negligence and breach of duty, and seeks unspecified damages in excess of $50,000.
Mike Hopkins, president and CEO of Children’s Service Center, and Bob Martin, a spokesman for KidsPeace, both said they had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on the pending litigation.