PADUCAH, Ky. (LEX 18) — Victims of a Kentucky school shooting, and family members of those who were killed, were given an opportunity to offer impact statements before Michael Carneal’s parole hearing.
On December 1, 1997, 14-year-old Carneal walked into Heath High School and opened fire, killing three classmates, and wounding several more. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. He’s been serving that term in LaGrange at the Kentucky State Reformatory. If parole is granted, Carneal would be the first school shooter in the United States to be granted such.
“The families and survivors and people there were at the school and the whole community were given a life sentence,” said Gwen Hadley, the mother of Nicole who was killed in that shooting. “(We) didn’t have the opportunity for a second chance or reduced sentence, or to be released from the sentence,” she continued.
Hadley’s brother offered an impact statement as well, saying he doesn’t fathom how parole is even an option.
In Kentucky, a convicted minor is eligible for parole after serving 25 years, which is why the board is required to hear from Carneal, which its members will do tomorrow. His attorney says he’s been receiving the mental health counseling he’s needed.
One of Carneal’s victims is Missy Smith, who spoke during the hearing from her wheelchair, which became a necessity after the gunshot wounds left her paralyzed.
“I could speak for hours about what my life has been like every minute of every day the last quarter of a century without the use of my legs,” Smith said, before adding that her children have to help take care of her when it should be the other way around and that the physical challenges become harder for her every year.
Despite all of the calls for Carneal to serve out his life sentence, there was one victim who feels otherwise.
Hollan Holm was shot in the scalp and it took 12 staples to put his skull back together. He said he knew Carneal for years before the incident, even rode the bus with him, and he wonders if the mistake made by a teenager should be punishable with a life sentence.
“This was not an easy decision for me. I think about the 14-year-old boy who acted that day and I think of my own children,” Holm said. “I think the man that boy became should get the chance to try and do better,” he continued.
The board will review the impact statements and meet with Carneal on Tuesday.