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A Kentucky man who killed three students and injured five more in a 1997 school shooting has been denied parole.
The man, who will not be named per Daily Wire policy, was just 14 years old when he opened fire at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, on December 1, 1997. He has spent the past 25 years in prison but became eligible for parole this year.
Last week, a two-person panel couldn’t reach a unanimous decision regarding the shooter’s parole, so the full parole board voted Monday morning, ruling that the shooter should serve out his entire life sentence.
The shooter pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, five counts of attempted murder, and one count of first-degree burglary back in 1997, CNN reported. Last week, he told parole board members that if he were to be released, he would live with his parents and continue to receive mental health treatment.
Alana Meyer, the shooter’s public defender, had argued that her client was a teenager with undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia when he opened fire on his fellow students. Meyer wrote that, in the 25 years since the shooting, the shooter “has committed himself to his mental health treatment, to participating in available educational and vocational programs, and to being a helpful and positive person within the prison.”
She added that the shooter “has shown deep, genuine remorse and taken responsibility for the shooting.”
The shooter, however, also told the parole board that he still hears voices in his head, although he has learned to ignore them. On the day of the shooting in 1997, he said, he heard a voice that told him to “pick up the gun out of the backpack and hold it in front of me and shoot.”
The shooter told the parole board, “There’s no justification or excuse for what I did,” but that he was “offering an explanation.”
While some on the parole board may have considered letting the shooter leave prison, his victims were adamant that he remain behind bars.
Missy Jenkins Smith, who was 15 when she was shot in the chest, leaving her paralyzed from there down, spoke to the parole board last week.
“He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. Also on December 1, 1997, Michael sentenced me to life in a wheelchair without the possibility of parole ever,” she said.
Smith didn’t recognize the sound of a gun when the shooting began and stood near a girl, 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, who had just been shot in the head. Smith was waiting for Hadley to get up when she was shot in the chest and started losing feeling in her stomach and legs.
Hadley’s parents also attended the parole hearing, asking about potential consequences of releasing the shooter.
“If the shooter is released, what happens when he doesn’t take his meds? Who’s he going to hurt or kill next? The community and the families don’t deserve to be sentenced to even harsher — to living in fear,” Gwen Hadley asked through tears.
In the end, the seven-member parole board voted unanimously to keep the shooter in prison.
Parole board chair Ladeidra Jones told the shooter that “due to the seriousness” of the crime and because lives were taken, it is the decision of the parole board that he would “serve out your sentence,” according to the Courier-Journal.
The parole board also released a statement saying it made its decision “in compliance with Kentucky law and in an effort to maintain a delicate balance between public safety, victim rights, reintegration of the offender and recidivism.”