Victims of Heath High School shooting relive horror of that day at Carneal’s parole hearing
MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. (KFVS) - Victims of the 1997 shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky relived the horror of that day as the Kentucky Parole Board considers whether to release Michael Carneal after a quarter of a century behind bars.
The family of murder victim Nicole Hadley testified during a victim’s hearing in the Carneal case on Monday morning, September 19.
Surviving victims Missy Jenkins Smith and Hollan Holm also testified.
Holm said despite what he’s been through, he’s feeling empathy, not just anger.
“I think about the 14-year-old boy who acted that day. And then I think about my own children,” he said.
Holm appeared visibly emotional as he spoke about the future of the man who, as a child, shot him and seven others.
“Physically, I was lucky. I’ve often thought about what might have been if that bullet that struck me just would have been a little bit closer.”
But despite what he calls profound emotional scars, Holm told the Parole Board Carneal should get the chance to do and be better.
“If the mental health experts think he can be successful on the outside, he should get that chance,” he said.
Missy Jenkins Smith, paralyzed from the bullet that struck her chest, also mentioned her children when she testified.
“I have a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old to take care of. But they’re taking care of me,” she said.
Jenkins Smith wanted the board to see her wheelchair. She called it her life sentence. And when he opened fire on that school prayer group, she said he sentenced all of them to life without parole from their pain.
“And somehow Michael has that possibility to be free of all consequences,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense and there are too many what-ifs to risk it.”
“He has never shown remorse or taken responsibility for what he’s done,” Charles Hadley told the board.
Hadley testified that Carneal had enough weapons to kill even more students than just his 14-year-old daughter Nicole and her classmates Kayce Steger and Jessica James.
Hadley’s wife and two surviving children also addressed the board.
“I have made the choice not to be angry and to find joy in life,” Gwen Hadley said. “But I still really miss my daughter. And I don’t like that I don’t get to see her. If the shooter’s released, what happens when he doesn’t take his meds? Who’s he going to hurt or kill next?”
“For me, it’s not fair for him to be able to roam around with freedom when we live in fear in where he might be,” said Christina Hadley Ellegood.
“It affected us all in so many ways,” added Andrew Hadley. “And it’s not going to stop. Him being released is a tragedy in itself.”
The board also heard briefly from the McCracken County Commonwealth’s Attorney, who also said Carneal should remain behind bars.
All victims had the chance to testify virtually or in writing.
Parole Board Chairwoman Ladeidra Jones and board member Larry Brock met with Carneal virtually beginning at 8 a.m.
After deliberating for about 25 minutes, Jones and Brock 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.
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