Michael Carneal Biography Michael Carneal Wiki
A Kentucky man who killed three students and injured five others in a school shooting a quarter of a century ago is facing parole this week.
In 1997, Michael Carneal was a 14-year-old freshman when he shot a prayer group with a stolen handgun in the common room at Heath High School near Paducah, Kentucky. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years, the maximum sentence then allowed for a person his age.
In depth: 25 years after Heath High School slayings shook McCracken Co. community and the rest of Kentucky, survivors, other local citizens prepare for emotions of this week’s state parole board hearing for shooter Michael Carneal https://t.co/bt9a9dm0dO pic.twitter.com/mSrbFzHxRC
— Brad Hughes (@GYMObrad) September 18, 2022
In one of the few interviews he’s given since then, he told the Kentucky newspaper Courier Journal in 2002, “I felt my life was miserable. Nobody loved me and nobody cared about me.”
Carneal then said he was sorry for what he had done and acknowledged that at that point he was only thinking of himself, not the people he was going to hurt and kill. He said there was no easy answer as to why he followed him, but at the time he was suffering from delusions and paranoia. He said the therapy and medication he received in prison stabilized his mental health. “It sounds strange to say, but I’m not really a violent person,” he added.
Carneal, now 39, did not respond to a recent written request for an interview from the Associated Press.
Carneal’s parole hearing is expected to begin Monday with testimonies from those injured in the shooting and families of those killed. On Tuesday, Carneal will apply for his release from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. If the council decides against him, they can decide how long Carneal has to wait before he has his next chance to apply for parole.
Nicole Hadley (14), Jessica James (17) and Kayce Steger (15) were killed in the shooting. Among the injured was Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. She met Carneal in prison in 2007 and had a lengthy conversation with him. He apologized to her and she said she forgave him.
“A lot of people think she absolves him of the consequences, but I don’t think so,” she said, adding that she opposed his release. He worries that he is unequipped for life outside of prison and that he could still harm others. He also doesn’t think it would be right for him to walk free while the people he hurt are still suffering.
On September 9, Commonwealth Attorney Daniel Boaz, the chief prosecutor for the territory that includes Paducah, wrote a letter to the Kentucky Parole Board opposing Carneal’s release.
“I experienced and witnessed the immediate repercussions of Michael Carneal’s actions on December 1, 1997 and have been working on the repercussions of his actions ever since,” Boaz wrote.
The families of the children killed had suffered “a loss too great for words,” he wrote. While Carneal’s incarceration for the rest of his life “may seem like a severe punishment, it is pittance compared to what these families are suffering.”