On Tuesday, two members of the Kentucky Parole Board failed to reach a unanimous decision at a parole hearing for Michael Garnier, jailed for the 1997 mass shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky Nearly 25 years.
Parole board chair Ladeidra Jones said the full parole board would review his case and make a decision on September 26.
Garnier, 39, defended his case at a videoconference parole hearing on Tuesday.
“I’ve been preparing for today for 25 years and it still doesn’t seem to happen,” Garnier told Jones during a videoconference parole hearing.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Garnier said he had received multiple mental health diagnoses and had long heard voices in his mind — including on the day of the mass shooting.
“I’ve heard a few things. And I’m very skeptical. I’ve felt alienated and different for years,” Garnier said.
He said that on December 1, 1997, he heard a voice telling him to “take a gun from his backpack and hold it in front of me and shoot”.
“There was no reason or excuse for what I did,” Garnier said. “I’m offering an explanation. I realize there’s no excuse for what I’m doing.”
When asked if he could still hear voices in his head, Garnier said yes.
“Most of the time, it’s something that could hurt myself or something like that,” he said. For example, just a few days ago, Garnier said a voice told him to jump down the stairs.
But now, Carneal says, he knows when to ignore the voices.
“I know now that’s not what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “And I’m able to not do it and rationalize that it’s not something I should be doing. And what I’m hearing is not true.”
Lawyer: Garnier suffers from paranoid schizophrenia
His public defender asked the parole board to remember that Garnier was only 14 at the time of the mass shooting, had undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia, and was battling bullying and transitioning from middle to high school.
In the quarter century since, Garnier “has been working on his mental health treatment, participating in existing educational and vocational programs, and being a helpful and positive person in prison,” attorney Alana Meyerben said. month wrote.
“Despite the circumstances he’s in, he’s been trying to improve himself and make the most of his situation.”
Victims and families disagree on whether parole should be granted
A victim hearing was held on Monday and Carnell asked for his release, with local prosecutors, the victims’ families and those who survived the mass shooting outside Heath High School all raising strong objections to Carnell.
Chuck and Gwen Hadley – whose 14-year-old daughter Nicole Hadley was one of the young people killed that day – spoke at the board of directors on Monday, saying they missed Nicole’s smile, sense of humor and “wonderful hugs”.
They told the board they wanted Garnier to spend his life in prison because he never showed remorse or responsibility for those he hurt and killed.
“We missed Nicole’s high school graduation, college graduation, weddings, her children, our grandchildren, and the many birthdays and vacations we spent together,” Chuck Hadley told the board.
Christina Hadley Ellegood often visits to honor her sisters Jessica James and Kayce Steger when she’s having a tough day The stele she found Nicole collapsed to the ground after she was shot.
She also told the board she opposed Garnier’s parole, saying Nicole never had a chance to fulfill her dream of becoming a valedictorian after graduation, attending the University of North Carolina, working as a WNBA physical therapist or starting a camp for special needs children.
“Nicole gets a life sentence. Michael (pleases) a life sentence,” she said. “I believe he deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. Nicole doesn’t have a second chance. Why would he do this?”
But one survivor of Garnier’s head shot told the committee he understood why people wanted to keep him behind bars, but he would vote for the convicted killer to have another chance.
Survivor Hollan Holm began his account of the day he was shot: “I was a 14-year-old. I was lying on the floor in the lobby of Heath High School, bleeding from my head, And believed I was going to die. I did a prayer and read that I died.
He said he used a dozen staples to repair his head wound, but the mental and emotional scars were deeper. Holm still struggles with the crowd and would be anxious if he sat in the restaurant with his back to the door, he said.
He scans the room for hazards and exit routes. He said fireworks and exploding balloons caused panic, and every school shooting forced him to relive the day he was shot.
But when he thinks of Carneal, he says, he thinks of his eldest daughter, 10, who he can’t imagine treating her to the same standards he treats adults.
“If the metal health expert thinks he can succeed on the outside, he deserves that opportunity,” said Holm, who understands the anger. “I have that anger too, but when I feel that anger, I think about the 14-year-old boy who acted that day, and I think about my own child, and I think the man that boy became should have the opportunity to try and do better.”
Missy Jenkins Smith, who played in the band with Carneal, recalls being bullied and bullying other people before she was shot at 15.
Sitting in the wheelchair where Carneal left her, Smith said she could spend hours recounting how she struggled without using her legs—getting out of bed, showering, reaching for cupboards, getting in and out of cars, and “special accommodations. Embarrassing” has to be made wherever I go. ”
She said she was supposed to take care of her boys, aged 12 and 15, while they were taking care of her. However, she won’t be able to dance with them at their wedding.
Lawyer: Carneal has a support system
In her letter to the parole board, Meyer said her client “demonstrated deep, sincere remorse and responsibility for the shooting.” He also sought to improve himself, maintain a 20-year treatment program, complete his GED and Anger management programs, and taking college courses.
At the time of the shooting, Garnier was suffering from the early stages of schizophrenia — which is difficult to diagnose among teenagers, the lawyers wrote.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s case showing “greater reform prospects” for juvenile offenders, Meyer filed a reentry plan that indicated Garnier would have strong support from his family and medical professionals.
Garnier is now living in a Kentucky correctional facility northeast of Louisville, and if granted parole, will move with his parents to Cold Spring in Paducah, statewide, according to a reentry plan submitted to the parole board.
His parents will help him see doctors and meet parole officers with finances, employment, housing and transportation, the plan said, adding that he will be referred to mental health programs in Cold Spring and nearby Erlanger.
“Michael knows any apology is hollow, but he sincerely apologizes for all the physical and emotional distress he has caused the victim and the entire Heath High School community,” the re-entry program said. “While he cannot take away the pain right now, he plans to make a positive contribution to society in any way possible.”
Prosecutor Daniel Boas told the committee that he was the county attorney at the time of the shooting, “which, to put it mildly, shocked us.” He said the heinous nature of Carneal’s crimes allowed authorities to treat him as an adult under Kentucky law, and that the state should continue to treat him as an adult who should “pay for the consequences of his actions.”
CNN’s Nouran Salahieh contributed to this report.