School shooter who killed 3 students pleads case for parole, but says he still hears voices

Two members of the Kentucky Parole Board failed to reach a unanimous decision Tuesday at a parole hearing for Michael Corniel, who has served nearly 25 years in prison for the 1997 mass shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky.

Parole board chairperson Ladidra Jones said the full parole board would consider her case on September 26 and then decide.

Corniel, now 39, made his stand on Tuesday during the video conference parole hearing.

“It’s been 25 years since I prepared today, and it still doesn’t feel like that’s happening,” Corniel told Jones during his video conference parole hearing.

Corniel was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to three counts of murder, five counts of attempt to murder and one count of first-degree theft. But Kentucky law requires that minors be considered for parole after 25 years.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Corniel said he had received multiple mental health diagnoses and had long been hearing voices in his head — including the day of the mass shooting.

“I was hearing things. And I was extremely hyper-skeptical. And I had felt isolated and isolated over the years,” Corniel said.

He said that on December 1, 1997, he heard a voice telling him to “take the gun out of the bag and hold it in front of me and shoot.”

“There is no justification or excuse for what I did,” Corniel said. “I am offering an explanation. I realize that there is no excuse for what I did.”

When asked if he still hears voices in his head, Corniel said yes.

“Most of the time, it’s things that can hurt me or something like that,” he said. For example, a few days ago, Corniel said that a voice told him to jump up the stairs.

But now, Corniel said, he knows when to ignore such voices.

“I know now that it’s not something I should be doing,” he said. “And I haven’t been able to do it and argue that it’s not something I should be doing. And what I’m hearing isn’t real.”

Attorney: Carniel had paranoid schizophrenia

His public defender has asked the parole board to remember that Corniel was only 14 at the time of the mass shooting, suffering from uncontrolled paranoid schizophrenia and battling bullying and transitioning from middle to high school.

A wounded community grapples with the shooter's upcoming parole hearing

Since this quarter, Corneal has “committed herself to her mental health treatment, to participate in the educational and vocational programs available, and to be a supportive and positive person within the prison,” attorney Alana Meyer said. Wrote this month.

“Despite his environment, he has worked hard to improve himself and make the best of his situation.”

Victims and families divided over whether parole should be granted

A victims’ trial took place on Monday, and Corniel faced substantial backlash for his requested release – a local prosecutor, family members of the victims and those who survived the mass shooting outside Heath High School.

Chuck and Gwen Hadley – whose 14-year-old daughter, Nicole Hadley, was among the youth killed that day – addressed the board on Monday, saying they miss Nicole’s smile, sense of humor and “amazing hugs”. Is.

They want Corniel to spend his life in prison, as he has never shown remorse or taken responsibility for the people he hurt and killed, they told the board.

“We’ve missed Nicole’s high school graduation, her college graduation, her wedding, her kids, our grandchildren, and many birthdays and holidays together,” Chuck Hadley told the board.

Christina Headley Allegood – who frequently visits the stone monument remembering her younger sister, Jessica James and Kays Steiger when she is having a hard day – is found on the ground after shooting Nicole.

She also told the board that she opposed parole for Carniel, saying that Nicole would never be required to graduate as a valedictorian, attend the University of North Carolina, work as a WNBA physical therapist, or have special needs. Didn’t get a chance to realize his dream of running a camp. Children.

“Nicole was sentenced to life imprisonment. Michael (pleading) was sentenced to life imprisonment,” she said. “I believe she should spend the rest of her life in captivity. Nicole doesn’t get a second chance. Why should she?”

But one survivor, who was shot in the head by Corniel, told the board that he understood why people wanted to keep him in prison, but would vote to give the convicted murderer another chance.

Survivor Holan Holm opened his statement by recalling the day he was shot: “I was a 14-year-old kid. I lay on the floor in the lobby of Heath High School, bleeding from the side of my head , and I believed that I was going to die. I made a prayer and prepared myself to die.”

Paduka, Kentucky, school shooter petitions for parole after 25 years in prison

It took a dozen staples for his head wound to heal, he said, but the mental and emotional scars run deeper. Holm is still struggling in the crowd, and is worried if he’s sitting in a restaurant with his back to the door, he said.

He scans the room for danger and exit routes. He said that fireworks and balloons spread panic and every school shooting forces him to re-live the day he was shot.

But when he thinks of Carniel, he said, he thinks of his 10-year-old eldest daughter, and he can’t imagine putting her on the same level as an adult.

“If metal health experts think he can be successful from the outside, he should get that chance,” Holm said, adding that he understands the anger of the people. “I feel that anger too, but when I feel that anger, I think of that 14-year-old boy who acted that day and I think of my kids, and I think Is that the guy who became the boy should get a chance. Try to do and be better.”

Missy Jenkins looks at a get-well card with her twin sister Mandy at a Kentucky hospital in 1997.

Missy Jenkins Smith played in the band with Corneal and recalled being bullied and others being bullied before she was shot at the age of 15.

From the wheelchair in which Corniel had dropped her, Smith said she could speak for hours about how she struggled without the use of her legs – getting out of bed, taking a shower, reaching cabinets, entering cars and Getting out and “the embarrassment of a special accommodation” can be made wherever I go.”

Where she was supposed to take care of her 12- and 15-year-old boys, she said, they are taking care of her. Yet she will not be able to dance with him at their weddings.

Attorney: Corneal Has a Support System

In his letter to the parole board, Meyer said his client has shown “deep, genuine remorse and has taken responsibility for the shooting.” He has also sought to improve himself, maintain a treatment program for 20 years, complete his GED and an anger management program, and take college courses.

The lawyer wrote, Corniel was suffering from the early stages of schizophrenia – which is difficult to diagnose in adolescents – at the time of the shooting.

Leaning on U.S. Supreme Court cases indicating that juvenile offenders “have greater potential for improvement,” Meyer presented a re-entry plan showing that Corniel would receive a great deal of support from his family and medical professionals.

Now based in Kentucky State Correctional Northeast of Louisville, Corniel will move with his parents from Paduka to Cold Springs across the state, according to the re-entry plan submitted to the parole board.

In January 1998, authorities escorted Michael Corniel for his statement.

His parents would help him with finances, employment, housing and transportation for doctor’s appointments and meetings with his parole officer, the plan says, sending him to mental health programs in Cold Spring and nearby Erlanger.

“Michael knows any apology is hollow, but is sincerely sorry for all the physical and emotional pain he has caused his victims and the Heath High School community at large,” the re-entry plan says. “Although there is nothing he can do now to erase that pain, he plans to make a positive contribution to the society by any means possible.”

Prosecutor Daniel Boaz told the board that he was the county attorney at the time of the shooting, which “shook us inside, to put it mildly.” The heinous nature of Carniel’s crime allowed officials to treat him as an adult under Kentucky law, they said, and the state should continue to treat him as an adult, who can be “regardless of the consequences of his action.” should pay for it.”

CNN’s Nooran Salahih contributed to this report.

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