One of the First School Shooters Loses Parole Bid

Michael Carneal killed 3 in Kentucky in 1997
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 29, 2022 1:38 PM CDT
Updated Sep 26, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
One of the First School Shooters Is Up for Parole
Missy Jenkins Smith, right, pictured in 2008, was paralyzed in the 1997 Heath High School shootings. Kelly Hard Alsip, left, was also shot.   (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

Update: Michael Carneal, one of the first school shooters in the US, has been denied parole. The Kentucky Parole Board ruled Monday that the 39-year-old should serve out his life sentence for a 1997 shooting spree that killed three students and injured five more at a high school in Paducah, reports CNN. The decision came after a two-person board split last week. Our story from August follows:

After 25 years in a Kentucky prison, convicted school shooter Michael Carneal will have a chance at parole next month, reports WPSD. Carneal attacked classmates at the close of a prayer meeting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, on Dec. 1, 1997, using a Ruger .22 handgun. Three students ages 14, 15, and 17 were killed and five were wounded, per Washington Post reporter Timothy Bella, who recently interviewed several survivors. Among them is Missy Jenkins Smith, who was shot and paralyzed from the chest down that day.

Although Smith Jenkins says she forgave Carneal, if only so she could move on with her life, she wants him to remain locked up. “I didn’t want to face this sentence he gave me for the rest of my life, but I don’t have control about whether he gets out,” she said. As Bella reports, the 14-year-old planned the attack in advance, stealing guns and ammo from a neighbor and smuggling them into school on the Monday after Thanksgiving break. He was convicted as a minor, making him eligible for parole after 25 years despite a life sentence. Carneal, now 39, challenged his guilty plea in 2007 and 2012, claiming that he suffers from schizophrenia and thus wasn't capable of entering the plea. Both efforts were rejected.

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It was one of America's first high-profile school shootings, coming 16 months before Columbine. “When Carneal did what he did, he ripped the veil off that feeling of security in school,” according to Assistant McCracken County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jamie Mills. “Obviously, we have not been able to get that back.” Her boss, Dan Boaz, tells WPSD that "he accepted a life sentence, and ... that's what he deserves." In recent years, courts and parole boards have shown leniency toward people convicted of serious crimes when they were young, but it’s rare if not unprecedented for a school shooter to get such a chance. (More school shooting stories.)

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