School shooting survivor on prospect of gunman’s parole


WEST PADUCAH, Ky. (NewsNation) — In 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal decided to shoot up his Kentucky high school. Three children died: Nicole Hadley, 14; Jessica James, 17; and Kayce Steger, 15. Five others were wounded.

Carneal pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, with the possibility of parole in 25 years.  At the end of next month, Carneal will face a parole board and be given the chance to walk free.  

Heath High School shooting victims

The approaching trial is reopening wounds for the people of West Paducah, especially for Carneal’s victims and their families.  

Michael Carneal

Missy Jenkins Smith was shot in the chest by Carneal but survived. She was, however, paralyzed and has been in a wheelchair ever since.

“The person that forced this future on us is getting a chance that we will never get,” Jenkins Smith said Monday night in an exclusive television news interview. “He could have another 30 or 40 years, and that’s something that three girls, people I knew that only had one decade of life, isn’t gonna get. And they don’t get parole. I don’t, either.”

Jenkins Smith also said that aside from the eight people physically injured, there were numerous people scarred that day, including those in surrounding communities. She is now a public speaker, sharing her lessons with people around the country.

“I think there’s too many people that that try to cope by saying, ‘Oh, it’s not going to happen here. We’re going to be fine.’ That’s something that you can’t you can’t do. You can’t live in fear, but you also can’t not look at the signs of what a school shooting could be,” Jenkins Smith said.

Before the Paducah shooting, Carneal apparently told people something big was going to happen. He even brought a gun to school, two weeks before the shooting.

Missy Jenkins Smith

Jenkins Smith is the author of “I Choose to Be Happy: A School Shooting Survivor’s Triumph Over Tragedy” and “Lessons From a School Shooting Survivor: How to Find the Good in Others and Live a Life of Love and Peace.”

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