Kentucky school shooter, up for parole after 25 years, says he still hears voices

Home » Kentucky school shooter, up for parole after 25 years, says he still hears voices
Kentucky school shooter, up for parole after 25 years, says he still hears voices


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The school shooter who killed multiple students at his high school in Kentucky 25 years ago said Tuesday he still hears voices like the ones that instructed him to open fire on classmates.

Michael Carneal was 14 when he killed three Heath High School students and injured five others in the December 1997 shooting near Paducah, Kentucky. The shooting, carried out as students gathered for a prayer meeting before school, ended when Carneal put down his weapon and the principal walked him to the school office.

Carneal, who is now up for parole, told a court the voices he was hearing led to the violence.

He said he was “hearing in my head to do certain things, but I should have known that stealing guns… was going to lead to something terrible.”

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Michael Carneal, who killed multiple students at his high school in Kentucky 25 years ago, said he still hears voices like the ones that instructed him to open fire on classmates.
(Stephen Lance Dennee/The Paducah Sun via AP, File)

The convicted killer said he is apologetic for the shooting and has received extensive therapy. However, Carneal still hears the voices in his head.

He explained that just two days prior the voices told him to jump off the stairs.

Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones said in the hearing Tuesday that, according to Carneal’s inmate file, his mental health prognosis is “poor” and he still experiences paranoid thoughts with violent imagery.

Carneal told the board he has learned to ignore the voices and imagery and has not acted on them in years.

Michael Carneal was 14 when he killed three Heath High School students and injured five others in the December 1997 shooting near Paducah, Kentucky.

Michael Carneal was 14 when he killed three Heath High School students and injured five others in the December 1997 shooting near Paducah, Kentucky.

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“It doesn’t have to be something grand,” he said. “Every little thing you do affects somebody. It could be listening to someone, carrying something. I would like to do something in the future that could contribute to society.”

He is up for parole because his life sentence guaranteed an opportunity for parole after 25 years, the maximum sentence permissible at the time for someone his age.

The students killed in the shooting were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger.

This screenshot from a Zoom video hearing shows Michael Carneal on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Ky. 

This screenshot from a Zoom video hearing shows Michael Carneal on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, at Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange, Ky. 

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The two-person panel did not reach a unanimous decision and referred his case to the full state board. 

The state board will meet Monday to determine whether to grant Carneal’s parole request, defer it to a later date or require that he must spend the rest of his life in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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