Michael Carneal told a parole panel Tuesday that he heard voices 25 years ago telling him to shoot students at a high school in western Kentucky. He said he still hears those voices today. 

Carneal was a 14-year-old freshman when he used a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol he had stolen from a neighbor to open fire in Heath High School, near Paducah, Kentucky, as students were gathered for a before-school prayer circle. It was one of the nation’s first school massacres. Carneal, now 39, is one of the only perpetrators to be considered for parole.

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. He attempted to convince a two-person panel Tuesday he should be freed.

‘He should stay there’:As Michael Carneal seeks parole, victim says forgive but don’t forget

His testimony came one day after victims of the shooting and their family members told board members in emotionally wrought testimony that he should serve the rest of his life sentence for killing three girls at Heath High School and wounding five other students. 

But the board was unable to reach a unanimous decision. Parole Board Chair Ladeidra Jones told Carneal after his testimony that the two members were referring his case to the full board, which meets on Monday and will decide whether to grant his parole request, defer the decision to a later date, or could order him to serve the rest of life behind bars

Carneal apologies to victims, says he feels partially responsible for subsequent attacks

Wearing a tan prison uniform, Carneal testified remotely from a hallway of the Kentucky State Reformatory and answered questions about his actions and whether he was a risk to the public.

Carneal admitted that as recently as two days earlier, he heard voices in his head telling him to jump down a set of stairs. But he insisted he was able to resist those voices now and hadn’t acted on them for decades. 

Still, board members Ladeidra Jones and Larry Brock expressed strong reservations that it would be safe to release him. Jones noted Carneal had a clear record at the Kentucky State Reformatory for nine years but that a report from mental health officials there said his prognosis was “poor” and he was still experiencing “paranoid thoughts with violent imagery.” 

Carneal expressed sympathy for his victims but showed no obvious emotions. Jones made him recite the names of all eight of his victims, and he acknowledged that most were friends of his.