A Kentucky Man Who Killed Three Classmates In 1997 Will Never Be Paroled

The Kentucky Parole Board decided on Monday that the man who was responsible for the 1993 school shooting that killed three and injured five will spend the rest of his life behind bars without eligibility for parole.

Michael Carneal, who was 14 at the time of the massacre and is now 39, promised the parole board last week that he would return to his parents’ home and continue receiving mental health therapy if he were released from prison. He said he still gets voices in his head like the one that prompted him to take a neighbor’s gun and open fire in Heath High’s crowded lobby back in 1997. Carneal, however, claims that he has mastered behavioral regulation through a combination of counseling and medicine.

A Kentucky Man Who Killed Three Classmates In 1997 Will Never Be Paroled
A Kentucky Man Who Killed Three Classmates In 1997 Will Never Be Paroled

After nearly 30 minutes of deliberation, the board unanimously decided to reject parole by a vote of 7-0. Carneal was incarcerated at the Kentucky State Reformatory when the vote was held, but he followed it on Zoom. As Kentucky Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones polled the board members, he sat slumped down on a miniature chair.

Later, Jones informed Carneal that “because to the nature of your crime,” he would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“After careful consideration, Mr. Carneal, your offense was elevated to the level of “aggravated” because a weapon was used. The parole board has decided to let you finish out your term despite the fact that you were responsible for the deaths of others “WLKY, a CBS station in Louisville, partially broadcast what Jones stated during the Zoom call.

Carneal mumbled “Yes, ma’am” and bolted out the door.

Last week’s hearing before the parole board panel included testimony from several victims who were injured and family members of those who were killed. Almost everyone polled wanted Carneal to die behind bars. Carneal admitted to the panel that there are times when he feels like he should be killed for what he did, but that there are also times when he believes he can still do some good in the world.

Prior to this, Jones had assured Carneal that “public safety” was their “number one charge.” She let him know that his inmate file states he has “paranoid ideas with violent visual imagery” and a “bad outlook” for his mental health.

Last Monday, Carneal apologized to his victims, including the whole close-knit hamlet of Heath outside of Paducah, via videoconference from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. Carneal described 14-year-old Nicole Hadley as a “very dear friend,” along with 17-year-old Jessica James and 15-year-old Kayce Steger as victims of the shooting on December 1, 1997.

“I apologize for my actions,” he stated. Even though it won’t fix anything, I want to apologize for my actions.

Carneal, a 14-year-old student, opened fire on a daily prayer circle in the school lobby. He received the maximum penalty allowable at the time, which was life in jail with the chance of parole after 25 years.

In a letter to the parole board earlier this month, prosecutor Daniel Boaz argued against Carneal’s release, citing the long-term effects on the victims’ families.

While life in prison “may seem like a heavy consequence, it is only a trifle compared to what these families suffer,” Boaz said, “I experienced and witnessed the direct impact of Michael Carneal’s conduct on December 1, 1997, and have coped with the effects of his actions since then.”

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