Full board to decide Monday on parole for Heath High School shooter

Michael Carneal's parole decision has been moved to Monday.
Published: Sep. 16, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 10:38 AM CDT
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MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. (KFVS) - Nearly 25 years after he opened fire on his classmates at a West Paducah, Kentucky high school, Michael Carneal faced his first chance at freedom.

On Tuesday, two board members questioned the now 39-year-old Carneal.

Carneal told them, if he were to be released, he would live with his parents and find a job.

When asked about he recalled about the day of the shooting, Carneal said he didn’t remember shooting but just seeing students on the ground.

Carneal blamed his mental health condition for his actions nearly 25 years ago.

He told the two parole board members he heard voices back then and he still hears voices now.

Carneal admitted he knew right from wrong when he committed mass murder as a 14 year old.

When Board Chair Ladeidra Jones asked if he planned the shooting, he described a longtime thought of having the school to himself.

“I didn’t think exactly about shooting and killing them,” he said. “It was just something I thought. I would do something and everyone would leave. And I would just run around.”

Board member Larry Brock brought up the school shootings that happened after Heath.

“Now Mr. Carneal, I think some would probably argue that you actions, what you did that day, set the stage for all the school shootings that have followed in the modern era. What’s your thought on that,” he asked.

“Even today, when these things happen, I feel responsible on some level,” Carneal replied.

He then recalled gaining access to newspapers and magazines at a youth center in 1999.

“And that’s when Columbine happened. And that really, I really feel responsible for that,” he said. “That’s when I became suicidal.”

As the questioning wrapped up, the chairwoman asked if he had anything else to share. That’s when, for the first time at this hearing, Michael Carneal offered an apology to his victims, their family and friends.

“I know it’s not going to change anything,” he said. “It’s not going to make anything better. But I want them to know that I am sorry for what I did.”

After deliberating for about 25 minutes, the two parole members said they were unable to agree on a decision, therefore decided to send the matter to the full Parole Board.

The eight-member board will meet on Monday, September 26 at 7:30 a.m. That hearing will be live streamed on KFVS12.com and on the KFVS news app.

Carneal’s two-day parole hearing began Monday, September 19.

The first day of the virtual hearing featured family members of the three students killed at Heath High School on December 1, 1997.

It began with emotional testimony from the family of 14-year-old Nicole Hadley. Her parents and two siblings testified virtually before the Kentucky Parole Board.

Board Chairwoman Ladeidra Jones and board member Larry Brock listened to the Hadleys describe all they’ve missed since Carneal shot and killed their daughter.

Hadley’s sister also testified about surviving the shooting herself.

All four members of the family called for Carneal to serve his entire life sentence, saying releasing him would be a tragedy in itself.

The five injured were also given the chance to speak to the parole board.

Of the seven people who testified, six want Carneal to remain behind bars.

The first day of the hearing lasted less than an hour.

Carneal is officially eligible for parole November 16.

Back in September 2002, Carneal told a Louisville reporter he dealt with feelings of extreme sadness and loneliness since kindergarten.

”But if somebody would have just pulled me to the side and talked to me about what was going on, I probably...things would have been a lot different,” he said. “I probably would have talked to them. Told them how I was feeling.”

Carneal was 14 years old when he opened fire on a prayer group. Three students died and five others were injured.

Located in West Paducah, Heath High School no longer exists. All three McCracken County high schools, Heath; Reidland and Lone Oak, consolidated in 2013 into the McCracken County High School.