Kentucky School Shooter Who Killed Three Kids 25 Years Ago Up For Parole

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A convicted killer, who fatally shot three girls in a Heath High School prayer circle in Paducah, Kentucky 25 years ago, appeared before a parole board today, September 20.

The board was torn and unable to reach a decision. They will reconvene next week.

Michael Carneal received a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder, attempted murder, and first-degree burglary. Under Kentucky law, minors are considered for parole after serving 25 years in prison.

Carneal was only 14 years old at the time of the shooting, and his public defender asked the Kentucky parole board to keep that in mind. CNN reported that the lawyer is also requesting that the parole board note that at the time, the teen was dealing with bullying and the transition from middle to high school, which was hard on him as he was also suffering from undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.

Alana Meyer, Carneal’s attorney, wrote to the board about the now 39-year-old Carneal, saying that he had positively changed and has participated in educational and vocational programs. She emphasized that Carneal had worked hard to make himself a better person. He is taking care of his mental health.

The parole board held a victim’s hearing on Monday and made it known that they do not want Carneal to be granted parole. Most of the survivors of the December 1, 1997 shooting at Heath High School, the victim’s family members, and a local prosecutor are against his release. However, one of the survivors shot in the head by Carneal told the board that he was willing to offer the convicted murderer another chance.

Carneal took the lives of Kayce Steger, 15, Jessica James, 17, and Nicole Hadley, 14. He shot and paralyzed Melissa “Missy” Jenkins Smith, who now uses a wheelchair.

On Tuesday, Carneal appeared before the parole board to present his case via video conference. After the conference, the two-person panel of the parole board discussed his fate and were unable to reach a decision. The panel includes Ladeira Jones, Board Chairperson, and Larry Brock, board member. The panel will meet again next week and will refer the case to the full board if they cannot agree. According to Jones, the full board has the authority to grant or deny Carneal parole or defer his case for up to 10 years.

Carneal and Missy Jenkins Smith played in the same school music band before the shooting. She recalled him being bullied and him bullying others before that fateful day. Speaking to the board, Jenkins said that she had difficulty believing the medical expert’s conclusions that Michael can be a productive member of society. What if the pressure is too much for him, or he stops taking his medication?

Prosecutor Boaz, the county attorney at the time of the shooting, told the board that the incident shook them to the core. Because of the monstrous manner of Carneal’s crime, Kentucky law permitted authorities to treat him as an adult. He said the state should continue treating Carneal as an adult and allow him to pay for his crimes.

The state attorney added that the victims’ families suffered a loss too significant to explain and notified the board that he would be opposing Carneal’s parole. He said that although Carneal’s life sentence might seem excessive, it was nothing compared to what the families were going through.

What will the board decide? Check for updates.

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