Victims of 1997 Kentucky school shooting mixed on shooter’s parole request

Michael Carneal in a WAVE News archive photo.
Michael Carneal in a WAVE News archive photo.(WAVE)
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 2:52 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2022 at 2:53 PM CDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After spending 25 years behind bars, school shooter Michael Carneal wants the Kentucky Parole Board to let him out of prison.

Carneal killed three students, and wounded five more, when he shot a prayer group meeting before school in the lobby of Heath High School on December 1, 1997.

Carneal, who was 14 when he decided to shoot his classmates, was sentenced to life, with a chance at parole at 25 years.

The Parole Board will hear from Carneal Tuesday. On Monday, the board heard from survivors and family members of the dead as a wound that has defined their lives for a quarter century was reopened.

“We were sentenced to a life of pain and suffering on that day that we lost Nicole, Jessica and Kayce, and the five others that were shot,” said Andrew Hadley, who lost his sister on that December morning.

Hadley still doesn’t know how he’ll tell his five-year-old why Nicole is dead.

“She asks about Nicole regularly especially before bed when we’re looking at pictures, just asking when she’ll get to meet her, and how amazing was she, and how she hopes to be like her,” Hadley said.

His sister, Christina, and his parents, Chuck and Gwen, all said Carneal should stay in prison.

“To this day I still don’t understand why he has the option of parole,” said Hadley.

“I was a 14-year-old child, on that day I lay on the floor in the lobby of Heath High School, bled from the side of my head and believed I was going to die,” said Hollan Holm.

Holm survived. He said you can still see the bullet scar in his hairline. He’s changed over 25 years. He thinks Carneal has too, and is willing to give him a chance.

“I think about the 14-year-old boy who acted that day, and I think of my own children, I think the man that boy became, should get the chance to try to do and be better,” said Holm.

But survivor Missy Jenkins Smith, confined to life in a wheelchair from her injuries, said Carneal lost his chances when he pulled the trigger.

“There is only one person who can be free from the consequences of that day, the person who made that decision on his own, sentencing countless people to a lifetime sentence,” said Jenkins Smith.

The parole board has three options.

It can keep Carneal in prison for life or it can choose to add five or ten years to his sentence, depending on how the board votes.

A decision could be made tomorrow, or in a week.