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Kentucky school shooter who killed three classmates in 1997 says he STILL hears the ‘demonic’ voices

A Kentucky man who killed three students and wounded five more in a school shooting 25 years ago said he still hears voices like the ones that told him to steal a gun and shoot into a crowded high school lobby in 1997 .

Michael Carneal, 39, who appeared before a Kentucky Parole Board panel Monday in a bid to get out of prison early, said the same voices told him as recently as ‘a few days ago’ to harm himself even by jumping a flight of stairs. .

“I know now that it’s not something I should be doing,” he told a two-person panel at the public hearing.

Carneal was a 14-year-old freshman on December 1, 1997, when he fired the stolen gun at a before-school prayer group in the lobby of Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky.

Michael Carneal, 39, is seeking parole despite still hearing the voices that led him to kill three classmates and wound five others
Michael Carneal, 39, is seeking parole despite still hearing the voices that led him to kill three classmates and wound five others

Michael Carneal, 39, is seeking parole despite still hearing the voices that led him to kill three classmates and wound five others

A Heath High School student screams as he watches the scene of a school shooting in which fellow student Michael Carneal opened fire, leaving three students dead and five wounded on December 1, 1997, near Paducah, Kentucky
A Heath High School student screams as he watches the scene of a school shooting in which fellow student Michael Carneal opened fire, leaving three students dead and five wounded on December 1, 1997, near Paducah, Kentucky

A Heath High School student screams as he watches the scene of a school shooting in which fellow student Michael Carneal opened fire, leaving three students dead and five wounded on December 1, 1997, near Paducah, Kentucky

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was shot by Carneal, is paralyzed and wheelchair bound.  She said Carneal should not be free
Missy Jenkins Smith, who was shot by Carneal, is paralyzed and wheelchair bound.  She said Carneal should not be free

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was shot by Carneal, is paralyzed and wheelchair bound. She said Carneal should not be free

“I think there is a real demonic force that would drive someone to do this,” said a minister and the father of Benjamin Strong, who leads the prayer group that was attacked. New York Times.

School shootings were not yet a disturbing part of the national consciousness in 1997 — two years before Columbine — and Carneal received the maximum sentence possible at the time for someone his age, life in prison with the possibility of parole.

A quarter century later, in the shadow of Uvalde and in a nation disgusted by the carnage of mass shootings, Carneal, now 39, tried to convince the parole board that he deserves to be released.

He told the board he feels responsible for subsequent school shootings, particularly the 1999 mass killing at Columbine High School by two students who killed 15 classmates.

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed by Carneal during the Heath High School shooting, said he was still a danger to the community
Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed by Carneal during the Heath High School shooting, said he was still a danger to the community

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed by Carneal during the Heath High School shooting, said he was still a danger to the community

Kelly Hard Alsip, left, and Missy Jenkins Smith, far right, who were both injured in the shooting, aren't buying Michael Carneal's apology
Kelly Hard Alsip, left, and Missy Jenkins Smith, far right, who were both injured in the shooting, aren't buying Michael Carneal's apology

Kelly Hard Alsip, left, and Missy Jenkins Smith, far right, who were both injured in the shooting, aren’t buying Michael Carneal’s apology

‘I feel really responsible. “That’s when I became suicidal and I tried to hurt myself and I had to be sent to a hospital,” Carneal said.

Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones told Carneal after his testimony that the two members had not reached a unanimous decision and referred his case to the full board, which meets on Monday.

Only the full board has the power to order Carneal to serve his sentence without another chance at parole.

Speaking at a video conference from the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Carneal told the panel that at the time of the shooting, I heard in my head doing certain things, but I should have known it was to steal guns … to lead to something terrible.’

He said he has received therapy and psychiatric medication in prison, but admitted he still hears voices. As recently as a few days ago, he heard voices telling him to jump down the stairs.

Jones told Carneal that his inmate’s prognosis shows his mental health prognosis as ‘poor’ and says that even with mental health services, he still experiences paranoid thoughts with violent images.

Asked how the board could be sure he wouldn’t act on those thoughts, Carneal said he’s learned to ignore them and hasn’t acted on them in years. He said there are days he believes he deserves to die for what he did, but other days he believes he can still do some good in the world.

“It doesn’t have to be anything big,” he said. ‘Every little thing you do affects someone. It could be listening to someone, carrying something. I would like to do something in the future that can contribute to society.’

Carneal attributed the shooting to a combination of factors that included his mental health and immaturity, but added that it was ‘not justified at all. There is absolutely no excuse for that.’

Killed in the shooting were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James and 15-year-old Kayce Steger.

Carneal said he knew all of his victims.

“Nicole was a very good friend,” he said. ‘Some of them I knew more than others, but it was a small school and a lot of these people bonded with me. I had been to several of their birthday parties. … Neither of them I have any negative memories of them.’

He ended with an apology.

Michael Carneal, 39, who was just 14 at the time, was serving a life sentence but was eligible for parole at 25 years, the maximum sentence allowed for someone his age, Fox News reported
Michael Carneal, 39, who was just 14 at the time, was serving a life sentence but was eligible for parole at 25 years, the maximum sentence allowed for someone his age, Fox News reported

Michael Carneal, 39, who was just 14 at the time, was serving a life sentence but was eligible for parole at 25 years, the maximum sentence allowed for someone his age, Fox News reported

‘I want to say to you and the victims and their friends and families and the whole community that I am sorry for what I did. I know it’s not going to change things or make anything better, but I’m sorry for what I did.’

Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed by one of Carneal’s bullets and now uses a wheelchair, watched from her home in Kirksey.

Her friend Kelly Hard Alsip was also injured that day, and their children and other relatives were gathered on a large couch to watch the hearing. They scoffed when they heard Carneal say that he had not attacked the prayer group but merely fired at random.

They also reacted with disbelief when he said he had heard voices just two days ago.

After the hearing, Jenkins Smith said she doesn’t mind having to wait another week to find out what will happen, but ‘at least he won’t be released’.

She had testified to the parole board on Monday that she believes there are too many ‘what ifs’ with Carneal. Like what if he stops taking his medicine or his medicine stops working?

“Continuing his life in prison is the only way his victims can feel comfortable and safe,” she said.

She also said it would be unfair to the girls he killed and their loved ones for Carneal to be released.

After gunning down three of his peers, Nicole Hadley, 17, Jessica James, 17, and Kayce Steger, 15, Carneal turned in his weapon and the principal followed him to the school office.  Carneal, who was 14 at the time (pictured) is seen being escorted by officials after his arraignment at the McCracken County Courthouse on January 15, 1998
After gunning down three of his peers, Nicole Hadley, 17, Jessica James, 17, and Kayce Steger, 15, Carneal turned in his weapon and the principal followed him to the school office.  Carneal, who was 14 at the time (pictured) is seen being escorted by officials after his arraignment at the McCracken County Courthouse on January 15, 1998

After gunning down three of his peers, Nicole Hadley, 17, Jessica James, 17, and Kayce Steger, 15, Carneal turned in his weapon and the principal followed him to the school office. Carneal, who was 14 at the time (pictured) is seen being escorted by officials after his arraignment at the McCracken County Courthouse on January 15, 1998

Michael Carneal (pictured right) appears with his attorney, Charles Granner, at Carneal's arraignment on January 15, 1998 in McCracken County Circuit Court in Paducah, Kentucky
Michael Carneal (pictured right) appears with his attorney, Charles Granner, at Carneal's arraignment on January 15, 1998 in McCracken County Circuit Court in Paducah, Kentucky

Michael Carneal (pictured right) appears with his attorney, Charles Granner, at Carneal’s arraignment on January 15, 1998 in McCracken County Circuit Court in Paducah, Kentucky

Students arriving at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., embrace an unidentified adult Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997, after student Michael Carneal opened fire on the school the day before, leaving three students dead and five wounded
Students arriving at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., embrace an unidentified adult Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997, after student Michael Carneal opened fire on the school the day before, leaving three students dead and five wounded

Students arriving at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., embrace an unidentified adult Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1997, after student Michael Carneal opened fire on the school the day before, leaving three students dead and five wounded

‘They will forever be a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old – only allowed a whole decade of life. A consequence of Michael’s choice,” she said.

At the beginning of the week, Christina Hadley Ellegood, whose younger sister Nicole was killed in the shooting, also testified.

Ellegood has written about the pain of seeing her sister’s body and having to call their mother to tell her that Nicole had been shot.

“I had no one to turn to who understood what I was going through,” she said. ‘To me, it’s not fair for him to be able to roam freely when we live in fear of where he might be.’

The two-person panel of the full parole board only has the ability to release him or delay his next opportunity for parole for up to five years. They could not agree on those options and sent the matter to a meeting of the entire board next Monday.

Hollan Holm, who was injured that day, spoke earlier this week of lying on the floor in the high school lobby, bleeding from the head and thinking he was going to die. But he said Carneal was too young to understand the full consequences of his actions and should be given a chance at supervised release.

“When I think of Michael Carneal, I think of the kid I rode the bus with every day,” he said. ‘I think of the kid I shared a lunch table with in third grade. I think about what he could have become if that day he had it somewhere in him to make a different choice or walk a different path.’

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