March 24, 2023

A victim who was shot and killed by a classmate in the 1997 school massacre was more than half paralyzed, and she criticized authorities for not denying him parole immediately after a hearing this week.

Michael Garnier, 39, spoke Tuesday in front of two members of the Kentucky Parole Board. He was serving a life sentence for shooting and killing three Heath High School classmates and wounding five others when he was 14 years old in West Paducah, Kentucky.

Miss Jenkins Smith, 40, was one of those injured. She was in a wheelchair and gave emotional victim testimony to board members via video a day before Garnier himself was revealed. He told the board he was taking three psychiatric medications but could still hear voices and did not “pay attention” to his specific diagnosis.

Ms Jenkins Smith looked at his testimony and was undeterred by his pleas, sharing in a Facebook post on Tuesday that she “doesn’t think Michael is doing well today”.

“I’m surprised the board couldn’t reach a unanimous decision, but I’m confident the full board will do the right thing next week. I don’t see any evidence that he’s better today, 25 years later, or that he’s prepared for this hearing A lot of effort goes into it, and I think the board sees that,” she wrote. “It seems to me that he is functioning and safe in prison, and so are we here. Let’s keep it that way.”

Michael Carneal, 39, was 14 when he killed 3, wounded 5 at Heath High School; he will be released on parole this month

(Kentucky Department of Corrections)

Commission Chair Ladeidra N. Jones noted in Carneal’s testimony that parole authorities had heard from his legal counsel and family, but not from the prisoner himself. Asked why on Tuesday, he said he thought everything else was covered in the messages others sent.

Ms Jones noted that after decades of treatment, his mental health prognosis remained “poor” and he continued to experience “paranoid thinking with violent visual images”.

Carneal acknowledged this and told the board that while he can still hear, he has learned to control his behavior and seek help. He appeared nervous during an hour-long interview with Ms Jones and her board member Larry Bullock.

Ms Jones and board member Larry Bullock heard Garnier’s testimony but failed to reach a unanimous decision on parole. The case will be heard by the Full Parole Board on Monday.

Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Missy married her husband Josh, had two boys, wrote books and gave speeches

(Miss Jenkins Smith)

Garnier told the board Tuesday that he knew right from wrong at age 14, but blamed “multiple factors” for the massacre.

“I’ve heard a few things that I’m very suspicious of,” he told the board. “I’ve felt alienated and different over the years, and I think when I started having mental health issues, it fueled that — and kinda…it made my mental health issues worse, and I spent It’s been that way for years.”

He told the board: “I was 14 years old and really, I didn’t experience anything in my life. I didn’t know the exact effect of what I would do.”

Carneal shot Nicole Hadley, 14; Jessica James, 17; and Kayce Steger, 15. Ms Jenkins Smith, one of five injured, believed Carneal was a friend and knew him fairly well, although she told the board he should remain behind bars.

“I want you to think about how long he’s been in someone else’s care,” Missy, now a married mother of two, told the board. “From 14 to 39 years old, he has no responsibility to take care of himself and has been cared for for 25 years.

“Who can say with confidence that he can do this for the rest of his life?” she asked, before adding: “There are too many ‘assumes’ – assuming he has enough responsibility to take care of himself, that doesn’t let his spirit An illness that caused him to harm anyone again? Continuing his life in prison is the only way for his victims to feel comfortable and safe without being bothered.”

Miss Jenkins Smith, pictured with her sons, said she feared Garnier would not be able to adjust to life outside prison and might stop taking medication

(Miss Jenkins Smith)

Also on Tuesday, Carneal told the board that his sister and parents, with whom he would initially live after any release, were supportive and pledged to take him to any doctor. He said he was taking three psychiatric drugs and, if released, would continue to be cared for outside.

“I think I can do a lot of good things out there,” Garnier said, adding that he’d be happy with fast food, hygiene or whatever, really. “I think I can fit into the community. I think I can benefit the whole person.”

Hollan Holm was 14 when Carneal shot him in the head but he was arguing to free his attacker


One of his victims, Hollan Holm, who was shot in the head by Carneal and still has scars on his hairline, defended the release of the attacker on Monday.

“I was a kid,” said Mr. Holm, who was 14 at the time of the shooting and will turn 40 in December. “Everyone in the halls of Heath High School that day, including Michael Garnier, was a kid. It took me 25 years to fully understand how little I knew that day — how much of my life I didn’t experience , how far my thinking and ability are from adulthood.”

Carneal went on to say that he felt responsible for the mass shooting caused by his actions. While he wasn’t the first school shooter, Columbine soon followed – in 1999 – and made the crimes a national terror. When he heard the news, Garnier said, he committed suicide and was hospitalized.

Gwen and Chuck Hadley’s teenage daughter Nicole was killed in a December 1997 school shooting in West Paducah, Kentucky


On Monday, the family of Nicole Hadley, who was shot by Garnier, strongly opposed his release.

“Not only did he kill Nicole, he killed Keyes and Jess and tried to kill five other students,” Chuck Hadley told parole board members. “I believe the killer should never have been released from prison and should have served the remainder of his life sentence.”

Gwen Hadley added that she “will not see Nicole achieve her goals, get married, have kids and be an auntie.”

“As a family, we miss her at all family events. Nicole will always be missed,” she said.

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