Full parole board to decide on Michael Carneal’s release

Carneal told the parole board members that he’s been preparing for this day for 25 years.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 11:01 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 11:02 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Two members of the Kentucky Parole Board have heard from convicted school shooter Michael Carneal, who wants the board to let him out of prison.

He is serving a life sentence but was given a chance at parole after serving 25 years. The first thing Carneal told the parole board members on Tuesday was that he’s been preparing for this day for years.

“I’ve had 25 years to prepare for today, and it still doesn’t seem like it’s happening,” he said.

Carneal answered questions from the board members as he recounted his mental health treatment, his past statements, and explained his actions after he shot and killed three of his classmates and injured five others in 1997.

Classmates he shot, and the families of those he killed, were split on what to do Monday with most saying he should stay behind bars.

It’s been 20 years since Carneal’s voice was last heard in public.

“It made things worse, and I knew I was going to come to prison for a long time,” Carneal told WAVE News back in 2002. “But I never really thought about what would happen to the people.”

“Looking back on it, I don’t think it was really happening the way I perceived it to be,” he said.

On Dec. 1, 1997, Carneal opened fire with a handgun on a prayer group meeting in the lobby of Heath High School in West Paducah. The 14-year-old killed three of his classmates and wounded five others. They were his friends.

“These people were in band with me,” Carneal said. “I knew all of them, I had been to several of their birthday parties.”

Carneal told the board he didn’t target anyone, and that he had a good home life. But he said had imagined emptying out a school or a mall with a gun, to act out on his depression. His doctors noted he still has paranoid thoughts with violent visual imagery.

Carneal acknowledged the difficult decision facing the board.

“Sometimes I think that I would just deserve to be killed,” he said. “Sometimes I think that. Honestly, other times I think that I could do some good for people. Maybe, it would be beneficial if I were released.”

“Some will probably argue your actions,” Parole Board Member Larry Brock said. “What you did that day set the stage for all the school shootings that have followed in the modern era.”

“Even today, when I hear these things happen, I feel responsible for them on some level,” Carneal said.

Behind prison walls, he read and saw so many more school shootings, beginning just two years after his own.

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

The panel deadlocked Tuesday on what to do.

“I don’t believe that you’ve offered much of a reason behind it that would support your thoughts on that day and 25 years later,” Parole Board member Ladeidra Jones said.

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

It will take the full board to decide Carneal’s future. The parole board meets Monday with several options to consider. Release Carneal and hold him for another 10 years and take up the parole again? Or reject his parole outright and order him to serve out his life sentence.