Teen Killers

Michael Carneal Teen Killer School Shooter

Michael Carneal

Michael Carneal was fourteen years old when he murdered three fellow students. According to court documents Michael Carneal brought a shotgun and a rifle wrapped in a blanket to Heath High School in Kentucky. Michael Carneal would open fire on a group of praying students killing three and injuring five. This teen killer was quickly arrested and sentenced to multiple life sentences however he is eligible for parole after twenty five years

Michael Carneal 2023 Information

Michael Carneal 2022
Active Inmate

Offender Photo(Click image to enlarge)
PID # / DOC #:246005 / 151127
Institution Start Date:6/01/2001
Classification:Medium (Level 3)
Minimum Expiration of Sentence Date (Good Time Release Date): ?LIFE WITH PAROLE AFTER 25 YEARS
Parole Eligibility Date:11/16/2022
Maximum Expiration of Sentence Date:LIFE WITH PAROLE AFTER 25 YEARS
Location:Kentucky State Reformatory
Eye Color:Blue
Hair Color:Brown
Height:5′ 11″

Michael Carneal Other News

On the morning of Dec. 1, 1997, then 14-year-old Michael Carneal arrived at Heath High School. While many thought it would be normal day, Carneal entered the school carrying a pistol, loaded clips, shot gun shells, and hundreds of .22 rounds, along with two shotguns and two rifles wrapped in a blanket. He told his sister the blanket was holding a school project.

He then approached and opened fire on a group of students praying. He killed three teenage girls and hurt five other classmates. Carneal then dropped the pistol and surrendered to the school’s principal.

He pleaded guilty a year later, and was sentenced to life in prison. He was also required to receive mental health care while in prison.

Investigators say Carneal had been bullied, and suffered from paranoia. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and had to be hospitalized several times due to psychosis.

In 2012, Carneal attempted to withdraw his plea, saying he was mentally ill at the time he made it. A month later, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied his request, stating he could have acted sooner.

He is up for parole in 2023.

Michael Carneal FAQ

Michael Carneal Now

Michael Carneal is currently incarcerated at the Kentucky State Reformatory

Michael Carneal Release Date

Michael Carneal was sentenced to life in prison, he is eligible for parole in 2023

Michael Carneal More News

In 1997 Michael Carneal walked into Heath High School in Paducah and opened fire on his classmates, killing three students and injuring five others. For the last five years we’ve been left to wonder why. He recently sat down with our Carrie Harned for his first ever television interview since the attack.

Michael Carneal seems to clearly remember the day of the shootings. “I remember pulling out the gun and holding it in front of me,” Carneal recalls. “I really wasn’t focused on the people I was focused on my hands.”

On that fateful day in Paducah, Michael Carneal sealed the fate of three teenage girls in a matter of seconds. But he says the events that led up to the shootings were years in the making. “There was a pecking order and I was probably towards the bottom of it.”

Carneal did, however, point to one event in particular that he identified as the starting point of all the trouble. “There was an incident in middle school that they put in the school newspaper that I was gay,” he said, “and ever since that, that label stuck with me. Everybody, if they wanted to get to me, they would put ‘faggot’ or ‘queer’ on the end.”

Despite the constant teasing, Carneal says he was desperate to make friends.

I would buy something and tell people I stole it because I thought that’s what they liked,” Carneal said, “that they wanted to be friends with a delinquent type person.”

After the shootings, Carneal avoided a trial by pleading guilty but mentally ill. Currently, he’s housed in the Kentucky State Reformatory’s psychiatric unit, where he takes medication for depression.

Carneal says he has been dealing with feelings of extreme sadness since kindergarten. “I was angry, I was lonely, I was afraid. I was just full of emotions and I didn’t know how to control them.”

So what he did was plan. At first, his ideas seemed strangely innocent. “If everybody left the school, then I could get on the intercom and talk.”

But then his thoughts grew more sinister. “Before the shootings, I would think about certain people who I would have liked to shot or hit or done something to.”

On December 1st, 1997, Michael Carneal stopped thinking and started taking action. He came to school that day armed with five guns and 1,000 rounds of ammo.

“The first place that I came upon was the lobby where everybody was just standing around,” he recalls. “And for some reason, I just decided I was going to do it there.”

He doesn’t remember much about the shooting itself except its aftermath. “I just remember stopping shooting and seeing a bunch of people on the ground screaming and crying.”

Now, facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life behind bars, Carneal is now aware of the destruction he caused — with plenty of time to think through his deadly plan in ways his 14-year-old mind could not.

“For some reason, I thought that if I did that, I thought that all my problems would just go away,” Carneal said. “But I never really thought about what would happen to the people.”

And looking back now, Carneal says he truly believes one thing could have stopped him. “If somebody would have just pulled me to the side and talked to me about what was going on, I probably — things would have been a lot different. It was in my mind so much it just became like I needed to bring it into action for some reason.”

Michael Carneal pleaded guilty but mentally in October 1998 to the attempted murder of the wounded and the murder of Kayce Steger, Nicole Hadley and Jessica James.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years, so he won’t be eligible for release until 2022.

Carneal was ineligible for the death penalty because of his age at the time of the crime.


Michael Carneal Parole Denied 2022

The Kentucky Parole Board on Monday ordered the man who, at age 14, opened fire on classmates in a 1997 school shooting to spend the rest of his life in prison, denying his request for parole 25 years later. 

Michael Carneal, now 39, told parole board members last week that he would live with his parents and continue his mental health treatment if they agreed to release him. 

He admitted that he still hears voices like the ones that told him to steal a neighbor’s pistol and fire it into a prayer circle in the crowded lobby of Heath High School, located in West Paducah, in December 1997. However, Carneal said that with therapy and medication, he has learned to control his behavior.

Those killed were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger. Five more were injured, including Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.

Those killed were 14-year-old Nicole Hadley, 17-year-old Jessica James, and 15-year-old Kayce Steger. Five more were injured, including Missy Jenkins Smith, who was paralyzed and uses a wheelchair.

The Courier Journal reported that the mass school shooting was one of the first in modern U.S. history. The Heath High School bloodshed came just 17 months before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher and injured 21 more at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Jenkins Smith, who had considered Carneal a friend before she was paralyzed by one of his bullets, said she couldn’t sleep Sunday night because she was so anxious about the decision. She said she was in shock after hearing it. “It’s so hard to believe I don’t have to worry about it again,” she told the Associated Press.  “I guess I’ll realize it later. It will sink in.”

Jenkins Smith watched the hearing from her home in Kirksey with another victim, Kelly Hard Alsip, and their families. Her oldest son, who is 15, had been worried that if Carneal were released, he would come to their house, she said.

Jenkins Smith, Alsip, others who were wounded in the shooting, and relatives of those who were killed spoke to the parole board panel last week. Most expressed a wish for Carneal to spend the rest of his life in prison. Carneal told the panel there are days that he believes he deserves to die for what he did, but on other days he thinks he could still do some good in the world.


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