Michael Carneal
This screen shot from a Zoom video hearing shows Michael Carneal on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022 at Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Ky. Carneal killed three students and wounded five more in a school shooting 25 years ago. He told a parole panel on Tuesday that he is still hearing voices like the ones that told him to steal a pistol and shoot into a crowded high school lobby in 1997. (Kentucky Parole Board via AP)
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By Travis Loller, AP

A Kentucky man who killed three fellow students and wounded five others when he was 14 years old will have to spend the rest of his life in prison without another opportunity to seek parole, the Kentucky Parole Board voted Monday.

Michael Carneal, now 39, told parole board members last week that he would live with his parents and continue his mental health treatment if they agreed to release him. He admitted that he still hears voices like the ones that told him to steal a neighbor’s pistol and fire it into the crowded lobby of Heath High School in 1997. However, Carneal said that with therapy and medication, he has learned to control his behavior.

The board, meeting in Frankfort, voted 7-0 to deny parole, after deliberating in private for about 30 minutes. Carneal watched the vote over Zoom from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange. He sat hunched in a small chair as Kentucky Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones asked each member for their vote.

Jones then told Carneal that “due to the seriousness of your crime” he would serve out his life sentence in prison.

Carneal said only, “Yes, ma’am” and quickly left.

Missy Jenkins Smith, who had considered Carneal a friend before she was paralyzed by one of his bullets, said she couldn’t sleep Sunday night because she was so anxious for the decision. She said she was in shock after hearing it.

“It’s so hard to believe I don’t have to worry about it again,” she said. “I guess I’ll realize it later. It will sink in.”

Missy Jenkins Smith, right, talks to reporters at her home in Kirksey, Ky., on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, while waiting for a decision from a parole board panel on whether the person who paralyzed her in a 1997 school shooting will go free. Michael Carneal also shot Kelly Hard Alsip (third from right) when they were all students at Heath High School in Paducah.  (AP Photo/Travis Loller)

Jenkins Smith watched the hearing from her home in Kirksey with another victim, Kelly Hard Alsip, and their families. Her oldest son, who is 15, had been worried that if Carneal were released he would come to their house, she said.

Jenkins Smith, Alsip, others who were wounded in the shooting, and relatives of those who were killed spoke to the parole board panel last week. Most expressed a wish for Carneal to spend the rest of his life in prison. Carneal told the panel there are days that he believes he deserves to die for what he did, but other days he thinks he could still do some good in the world.

Jones earlier told Carneal their “number one charge is to maintain public safety.” She informed him that his inmate file listed his mental health prognosis as “poor” and says he experiences “paranoid thoughts with violent visual imagery.”

Speaking by videoconference from the Kentucky State Reformatory last week, Carneal apologized to his victims, including the entire tightknit community of Heath, just outside of Paducah. Killed in the Dec. 1, 1997, shooting were 17-year-old Jessica James, 15-year-old Kayce Steger, and 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, who Carneal said was a “very good friend” to him.

“I’m sorry for what I did,” he said. “I know it’s not going to change things or make anything better, but I am sorry for what I did.”

Carneal was a freshman when he opened fire on a before-school prayer circle that met in the lobby each morning. He was given the maximum sentence for someone his age at the time, life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

A two-person panel of the parole board considered his case last week but could not reach a unanimous decision, sending the case to the full board meeting on Monday.

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52 COMMENTS

    • Well, Chris – that is a problem, in my most honest opinion. Our prison system is a for-profit system, after all. There is motivation to put people in prison, whether they be deserving or not.

      The problem is, that the bleeding hearts won’t or can’t fix the underlying problem. For decades, we’ve locked people up pointlessly, just to keep the profits rolling. We need to pardon, parole, or otherwise flush non-dangerous people out of the system, free them, and let them get on with their lives.

      Carneal is most definitely NOT one of those people. He poses a threat to society, and he should die in his prison cell. The sooner the better, but if it takes 75 more years, I’m alright with that.

      DANGEROUS people should never see the light of day again. Non-dangerous people should be punished for minor offenses with fines community service, and restitution where appropriate. Petty thieves shouldn’t be filling prison cells. That kind of crap should all be handled locally, in the community.

      Let’s remember that most petty criminals go to prison, where real criminals teach them to be real criminals.

      • The bigger problem is really we just have a lot of criminals.

        There sure are some dumb laws on the books, with dumb penalties for sure.

        But the real problem over loading our prisons is the inner big cities are criminal factories, and produce a-lot of them.

        Most states prison system is actually a drain on state budgets not a boon, when the totality of the expense is observed.

        • to Ron
          Libertarians Liberals and the Left have all said for decades now that its ok to steal. They have the soft bigotry of low expectations. They don’t believe in “messy freedom”. Which is when ALL criminals, no matter their crime, are head accountable.

          Which is why they supported raising the level of a misdemeanor up to $950 in California. They have no respect for the private property rights of the low class. The “Purge” will happen for real in Illinois. The three L’s are making it come true.

          “Illinois REAL LIFE PURGE 2023…? Watch this” video 1 min long

      • Prisons are for profit? What product or service do they sell that turns a profit? We’d have to actually look at their balance sheets but I suspect prisons are a net loss of tens of billions of dollars to society and many, many, many more times than that if you count the lost labor force participation rate. Prisons are merely a symptom of bad public policy, the reform is changing laws so there aren’t so many things to lock people up for.

      • Maybe it would be better to keep him in an asylum for the criminally insane, as long as he can never get out. Leaving him to the mercies of other violent criminals is not right either. Making sure he takes his meds everyday and follows procedure is the best he should expect.

      • Petty thieves shouldn’t be filling cells. They should be filling work camps and paying their victims restitution. We’ve gotten too soft.

      • I say that there should be a federal law that says it is a crime to be convicted of three violent crimes and the punishment should be execution. Not only would we dramatically reduce prison populations, but also negate the need to plea bargain first time offenders. Then, as an added bonus for them, it should be required that they achieve a full curriculum HS education as a condition of release, or have a waiver that they are morons.

      • to Paul

        Sheriff Joe Arpaio was doing exactly as you described. He put people in his jail to work. They did perform community service. And the Libertarians liberals and Left attacked him. So no I don’t believe you when you say you support community service for non-violent, or what you described as nonviolent criminals.

        Requiring criminals to work has been constantly attacked by the three L’s. Many of them Call it “slavery”. Referring to the required work of criminals. They are simply using the word slavery like people use the word fascist, when they disagree with something. They’re just insincere complainers.

        Texas used to have guards on Horseback holding shotguns as criminals worked in the fields. And I remember people complaining about that because they said “it looked bad”.

        So community service is okay as long as you don’t have to look at it?

    • Murder, rape and injuring children are very serious crimes that need to be treated harshly. The trouble with our system, and I did work at a prison in the 80’s, is that we want harsh punishment for even non violent first offenders. An 18yo that is being stupid gets hit with a felony bust that stays on his record for life.

      No matter how well he lives his life afterwards he will be barred from many jobs and opportunities. He’s stuck in low paying dead end jobs for the rest of his life.

      We do not have a justice system, we have a revenge system.

      • Not so much anymore. You are very correct in your experience especially in the 80s. Tough on crime worked, but it went nuclear, and included way too many offenses it shouldn’t have. Prior to tough on crime a murderer could get out in many states (I can’t give a list off the top of my head) in less then 10 years. However following it, people with relatively small amounts of drugs were then catching sentences in excess of 10 years. Both of those scenarios are ridiculous. Now a lot of states are moving away from that, but they’re also moving whole heartedly back into the bad old days of letting violent criminals out.

      • What is a nonviolent crime? Is it when your only source of transportation is stolen? Your car, your motorcycle, or your bicycle.
        Is a non-violent crime what is happening in San Francisco Bay Area? When retail stores are continuously shoplifted by people filling up trash bags full of stolen goods.

        Is a non-violent crime when someone smashes the glass in your car or the front window of your business?

  1. “Jones then told Carneal that “due to the seriousness of your crime” he would serve out his life sentence in prison.”

    That isn’t wrong, but it’s not exactly right, either. A lot of people have been paroled, even pardoned, after committing equally serious crimes. Some of those people have gone on to live good, productive lives. The seriousness of the crime should not be the controlling consideration.

    The primary consideration should be, “Will this offender offend again? How much danger does he pose to society?” I can forgive all manner of politically motivated stupidity, if only the parole board keeps that primary in mind.

    This misfit still hears voices? Meaning, if he skips out on an appointment or six and stops taking his medication, he is likely to shoot up another school, or the same school, or a shopping mall, or an airport?

    Put him in a cell, lock the door, and mail the key to the man in the moon. We won’t be needing that key again.

  2. “he has learned to control his behavior” – IE “has not shot anyone lately”?

    Fortunate that he is not “of color” or he would be out.

  3. As usual the Moronic paranoid Far Right cannot see the forest for the trees judging by the assinie comments made here on T Tag.

    And the paranoid Far Right Lunatics are against mental tests before one could purchase a deadly weapon. All civilized nations give mental tests. But the Far Right come up with the usual paranoid and asinine comment “The mental tests do not always work”. Yeah sure, you idiots would rather not have them at all and let the majority of lunatics buy guns and slaughter people. After all, the law of averages you scream would mean it would not affect you personally.

    And the Far Right scream it would be an inconvenience to go through a mental test when buying a deadly weapon.

    • @dacian

      On day police are going to arrive at a murder scene and find you standing over the body, laughing, with the murder weapon in your hand. They will ask you why you killed your mom and you will tell them “Far Right Lunatics did it.”

      Seriously dacian, get some help. Not everything is your imaginary ‘Far Right Lunatics’.

      • Well, since he qualifies as a ‘far right lunatic’ he would not be lying. Fascist is as far right as it gets. As for lunatic? Read any 3 of his comments…..

    • Listen to you flapping your gums about mental tests. And, you’ve forgotten that you’ve failed every mental, every psychiatric, every psychological test you’ve ever taken? Failed, failed, failed, again and again. You can’t even get your GED, after 8 years of trying. Complete idiot.

    • I agree. Testing and permits to exercise the 1st Amendment. Deny it to all socialists, communists, and liberals. The pen is mightier than the sword, after all.

  4. Here is how I view this. Would you be comfortable with handing this person a loaded firearm? If the answer to that question is no, then they don’t belong amongst us in the first place.

    If a felon has paid his/her debt to society, and is deemed safe to walk amongst us, then ALL rights must be restored. Shouldn’t that person have the right to defend himself and loved ones if attacked? Laws purporting to criminalize purchase or possession of a firearm for felons is absolute BS. Anyone who wants a gun will get one; so exactly what is the point? If a felon is attacked by an armed person and takes the gun from the assailant, is he now going to jail for illegal possession? Seems I read about that happening.

  5. Momma and daddy told me a long time ago “ boy you think they won’t come after you for this little stuff you’re doing. They know you ain’t Dillinger, but you’re a whole lot easier to lock up than a real criminal. Don’t nobody become a cop because they want to work hard.” Prison is supposed to suck so you don’t want to go there. Keeps you from fouling up in the first place. Murderers, rapists, and kidnappers should be executed. Deterrence is more important than rehabilitation, don’t foul up , rehabilitation not needed.

  6. “… and fire it into the crowded lobby of Heath High School in 1997.”

    His background with firearms? None. Notice that ‘he stole’ the weapon from a neighbors house. These were the first shots he ever fired with a real gun. Seven of the eight were head shots.

    How did he do that? There was a game arcade that he patronized that had a pistol shooting game. It gave extra ‘points’ for head shots. He was the top scorer on that game.

    (I paid particular attention to this crime since my late father-in-law was born in Paducah, in 1890)

  7. Randy Orton hears voices in his head and he gets paid to beat up Kevin Owens.
    I hear voices in my head.
    I was talking to a nutzoid the other night and ive just about got him convinced to start killing everybody that I dont like.
    Hes a big guy but he better bring a lunch because hes going to be working overtime.

  8. Most of the people who are locked up in jail for a non-violent offense are in jail because they are stealing to feed their drug habit. Most of the people in the drug legalization crowd are simply dishonest. A drug addict is simply an unreliable employee. Assuming they even have a job. And drug users also end up being unreliable employees.

    That is why most of them get fired by their boss. So to solve this problem the drug legalization crowd wants to make it much harder to prosecute a thief. Because they want to enable drug users.

    The drug legalization crowd pays lip service to the phrase “messy freedom”. If they were honest they would simply say that there’s nothing wrong with stealing private property.
    But these people are liars. The Leftists use to say there is nothing wrong with stealing back in the 1970’s.
    But the wealthy and mostly White will be protected by the police. Crimes against them will be quickly and thoroughly investigated.

    The police have simply ignored crimes committed against the middle and lower economic classes. Once proposition 47 went into effect in California. And the exact same thing is going to happen in the state of Illinois in the beginning of January 2023.

    Btw
    A non-violent crime whatever that is??? Will cost a property owner thousands of dollars in Damages. Or the theft of a valuable piece of property, will cause insurance rates to go up for the innocent property owner.

    Most law-abiding citizens don’t think like Libertarians liberals or leftists.

    The law-abiding are not willing to simply stand by and take a non-violent crime committed against them.
    The Libertarians are liberals in the left are famous for saying “they have insurance what’s the problem”?
    The answer is not everyone can afford insurance.

    And if the insurance rates keep going up because your property is continuously being smashed, I don’t really think that the average property owner in America will be able to afford insurance.

  9. Hate crime. It was a hate crime. Angry atheist attacks prayer circle. I doubt he hears voices, and I doubt even more he regrets anything except getting caught.

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