Survivor of ’97 school shooting shares relief after parole board decision

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (WKYT) — A Kentucky school shooter will spend the rest of his life in prison, and survivors are now sharing their relief following a parole board decision.

Michael Garnier, 39, held his final parole board hearing on Monday. At a meeting last week, he admitted he could still hear some noises, like those that made him steal a neighbor’s pistol and shoot at the crowded halls of Heath High School in 1997.

While he did tell parole board members that he would live at home and continue mental health treatment, the board voted 7-0 to deny parole.

Carneal attended his hearing via Zoom from a Kentucky correctional facility. He quickly left after hearing that he would serve a life sentence in prison, while the victim’s family and some of the shooting survivors who were present hugged each other.

“Three girls are dead. Everyone involved in this is dealing with the consequences of his actions and will not be eligible for parole for the rest of their lives,” said shooting survivor Misty Jenkins-Smith.

Carneal killed three of his classmates, Jessica James, Kayce Steger and Nicole Hadley. Jenkins Smith has been sharing her story for the past two decades as she was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair in the shooting. She finally felt that the community had gotten some kind of justice.

“Unfortunately, shootings are what we’ve seen and it’s become common. It’s scary, but I hope this visual shows others that this is what violence can create. This is school shootings all that can be done,” Jenkins Smith said.

McCracken County U.S. Attorney Jamie Mills said the decision was not shocking to him. Speaking at a parole board hearing last week, Garnier admitted he still heard some noises, like those who told him to steal a neighbor’s pistol and shoot in the crowded halls of his school.

“I think after his testimony, most people will doubt his remorse for what he did and his plans for future parole attempts to succeed,” Mills said.

Carneal will serve his life sentence in prison.

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