Michael Carneal, now 39, was 14 years old when he opened fire at a prayer group gathering before school at Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky. The shooting resulted in the deaths of three students and injuries to five others.
When convicted for the murders, Carneal received the maximum sentence for someone his age, life in prison with the opportunity for parole after 25 years.
Now, after 25 years, Carneal will appeal to the parole board that he has been rehabilitated and should be released from prison.
There are plenty of people who disagree, including the lead prosecutor for the area encompassing Paducah, Daniel Boaz.
“I experienced and witnessed the immediate effects of Michael Carneal’s actions on December 1, 1997 and have dealt with the effects of his actions since then,” Boaz wrote in a letter to the parole board.
Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Boaz:
The victims and their families "have been sentenced to life without parole … ⁰We think that equity and justice demands that (Carneal) share the same consequence." pic.twitter.com/6rTC9m7wN4
— Dave Thompson (@davethompson77) September 19, 2022
He went on to describe the tragedy as a loss “too vast to be put into words,” and keeping Carneal in prison for life “is only a pittance in comparison to what these families suffer.”
Carneal has given few interviews since his incarceration, but he has expressed remorse for the hurt he caused. He said he was experiencing delusions and paranoia at that time in his life, but through therapy and medication, he has been able to stabilize his mental health.
In 2007, one of Carneal’s victims, Missy Jenkins Smith, visited him in prison. She related that Carneal apologized to her, and that she forgave him, but later clarified that she still did not believe he should be released from prison.
“A lot of people think that exonerates him from consequences, but I don’t think so,” she stated.
Carneal’s parole hearing will include testimony from deceased victim’s families and those injured in the shooting, as well as a statement from Carneal.
In previous interviews, Carneal tried to explain his state of mind.
“I perceived my life as miserable,” he said. “Nobody loved me and nobody cared.”
“It seems weird to say, but I am not really a violent person,” Carneal added.