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York Daily Record (PA)
September 26, 2001
Author: RICK LEE Daily Record staff
Judge Sheryl Ann Dorney was at a loss trying to understand William Michael Stankewicz’s reasoning. The 56-year-old former Felton resident pleaded guilty to multiple counts of attempted homicide and aggravated assault Tuesday for his Feb. 2 machete attack that left three adults and 11 children injured at North Hopewell-Winterstown Elementary School.
Stankewicz, while entering his pleas, identified himself as “a victim of marriage fraud.” He told Dorney his hatred for his Russian-born ex-wife, Larisa Montgomery; her attorney, Stephen Converse; and a local Children and Youth Services caseworker led him from Johnson City, Tenn., through Baltimore and to Winterstown, where Larisa’s children had once attended school.
“My state of mind drove me to that school,” said Stankewicz, who confirmed he is taking four different medications to “stabilize” acute depression and anxiety and was treated for those problems two weeks before the attacks.
He added that if he were in the same mental state, “I would do it again.”
“I had no choice, I had no free will,” he said. “I wish I could have found Larisa. If I knew where Larisa lived, I wouldn’t have gone to Winterstown.”
While Stankewicz talked, parents, along with the principal and teachers injured in the attack, listened. Some held hands. Others nervously chewed gum.
Stankewicz said he returned to York County seeking justice. Surrounded by armed deputies as he stood in leg shackles and handcuffs Tuesday, Stankewicz railed against his ex-wife and York County.
“My life was hijacked by York County,” he said. “I was going to hurt York County for hurting me. It was an emotional relief when I decided to come to York County. It was like 1,000 pounds were lifted off my back. I was going to find peace.”
Stankewicz, who was wearing a stun belt controlled by deputies under his orange prison jumpsuit, admitted the school children had caused him no grief. He said they became his victims by “proxy.”
“If that is not rational, understand it was rational for me,” he said, standing at the bar, bracketed by his public defenders.
He said “I’d rather go to hell” then repeat the mental anguish he suffered during the six years he had battled his ex-wife.
Dorney observed that Stankewicz’s complete disregard for the strangers he attacked at the school reminded her of the recent terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
“One man’s terror is another man’s justice,” he said. “Did I get my justice? Perhaps, be cause I feel better.”
Dorney commented that Stankewicz’s sense of well-being likely came from his medication instead of the machete attack.
Stankewicz said he did not intend to kill or hurt anyone at the school, although he realized at the time that either could happen.
The closest he came to an apology was claiming prior unsuccessful attempts to take his own life.
“Suicide failed,” he said. “Suicide failed several times.
“I apologize to the people in York County that I did not commit suicide. If I had, we wouldn’t be here today.
“I tried to make a life again, and I couldn’t take the pressure. My life had already been destroyed.
“Between my actions and medications, I feel better than I did in six years. So, that’s a plus for me.”
Stankewicz pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder and four counts of aggravated assault on school Principal Norina E. Bentzel and teacher Linda A. Collier. He pleaded guilty to one count of aggravat ed assault on teacher Stacey Bailey.
He entered guilty pleas to 11 counts of aggravated assault on the school children and also pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon on school property.
Fourteen total counts of simple assault and reckless endangerment, which would have resulted in no additional jail time, were dismissed in the plea arrangement.
Stankewicz entered his pleas with no agreement as to sentencing. His eyes did widen when Dorney advised him he faced 360 years in state prison if all of the sentences for the 18 felonies and one misdemeanor were served concurrently.
Dorney advised Bentzel, the teachers and the children’s parents that a gag order remained in effect until Stankewicz is sen tenced on Nov. 5. The group left the courthouse without commenting.
Staff writer Teresa Ann Boec kel contributed to this story.
Reach Rick Lee at 771-2033 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collier-Kindergarten teacher, Macaluso-Red Lion Schools superintendent DAILY RECORD / ANGELA GAUL William Michael Stankewicz, left, leaves the York County Courthouse in York Tuesday after pleading guilty to the school attack.
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Record Number: 408300
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Machete wielder pleads guilty Stankewicz still blames his ex-wife and York County for his attack on children.