A Kentucky man who killed three students and wounded five others when he was 14 must spend the rest of his life in prison without another chance to seek parole, the Kentucky Parole Board voted Monday, reports the Associated Press. Michael Carneal, now 39, told parole board members that he would live with his parents and continue his mental health treatment if they agreed to release him. He admitted that he still hears voices like the ones that told him to fire a pistol into the crowded lobby of Heath High School in 1997. However, Carneal said that with therapy and medication, he has learned to control his behavior. The board voted 7-0 to deny parole after deliberating in private for about 30 minutes. Carneal watched the vote over Zoom from prison. Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones, who asked each member for their vote, told Carneal that “due to the seriousness of your crime” he would serve out his sentence in prison. Jones earlier told Carneal the board's “number one charge is to maintain public safety.” She informed him that his file listed his mental health prognosis as “poor” and still says he experiences “paranoid thoughts with violent visual imagery."
Missy Jenkins Smith, who had considered Carneal a friend before she was paralyzed by one of his bullets, said she couldn't sleep Sunday night because she was so anxious about the decision. She said she was in shock after hearing it. “It’s so hard to believe I don’t have to worry about it again,” she said. Jenkins Smith watched the hearing from her home with another victim, Kelly Hard Alsip, and their families. Her oldest son, who is 15, had been worried that if Carneal were released he would come to their house, she said. Jenkins Smith, Alsip, others who were wounded, and relatives of those who were killed spoke to the parole panel last week. Most said Carneal should spend the rest of his life in prison. Carneal told the panel there are days that he believes he deserves to die for what he did, but other days he thinks he could still do some good in the world. Last week, by videoconference, from the Kentucky State Reformatory, Carneal apologized to his victims. “I’m sorry for what I did,” he said. “I know it’s not going to change things or make anything better.” Carneal was a freshman when he opened fire on a before-school prayer circle that met in the lobby each morning.