LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Paralyzed from the chest down 25 years ago when freshman Michael Carneal opened fire on eight students at Heath High School in western Kentucky, Missy Jenkins Smith said she long ago forgave him. 

She titled her published memoir, “I Choose to be Happy.” 

But when Carneal, now 39, faces the Kentucky Parole Board – which could free him later this month – she will ask that he be ordered to spend the rest of his life in prison for killing three people and wounding five at the school. 

She said she forgave him to move on with her life and that her forgiveness does not relieve him of the consequences of his actions. 

Sabrina Steger, whose daughter Kayce, a 15-year-old sophomore, was killed by Carneal, also said she will urge the board not to parole him. 

She refuses to mention his name. “I only call him ‘the killer,’” she said. 

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But Hollan Holm, whom Carneal shot in the scalp – and who suffered no permanent physical injuries yet endured emotional trauma for which he required counseling – said he will tell the board to free him if he can be placed somewhere where he is supervised and continues to receive treatment. 

Holm, who like Carneal was a 14-year-old fellow freshman, said he cannot separate Carneal the shooter from the boy he rode the bus with every day to elementary school and sat beside in the lunchroom. 

“I don’t view him as the sum of what he did on the worst day of his life,” said Holm, an attorney with two children of his own. 

One of the first school shootings

The Heath High School shooting in West Paducah was one of the first school massacres in the United States, and Carneal is one of the only perpetrators to be considered for parole; most were killed in their attacks or sent to prison for life. 

Carneal, who pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder, attempted murder and burglary, was sentenced to life, but because of his age, he was entitled to be considered for parole after serving 25 years.