Friday, July 14, 2000

Parents of school shooter dismissed as defendants

The Associated Press

        PADUCAH, Ky. — A judge has dismissed the parents of Michael Carneal from a civil lawsuit brought by the parents of the three girls killed when Michael opened fire on a prayer circle at Heath High School in 1997.

        Chief Regional Circuit Judge Will Shadoan's ruling Thursday leaves the 16-year-old Michael as the last remaining defendant in the $120 million civil suit, which was filed in December 1998 by the parents of Kayce Steger, Jessica James and Nicole Hadley.

        “I've seen all the evidence, and there is nothing in there to indicate that his parents could've foreseen that this child was capable of such a violent act,” Judge Shadoan said in a telephone interview. “The law in Kentucky is limited to begin with in regard to where parents are liable for their children's actions.

        “But this kid had never done anything violent before in his life. There was no evidence that would've led anyone to think he was capable of such an act.”

        Michael Moore, the attorney for John and Ann Carneal, said he was not surprised by Judge Shadoan's ruling.

        “I think every jurisdiction in the country would've ruled the exact same way,” said Mr. Moore. “The law in Kentucky states that the boy would've had to do something of the same or similar nature prior to this incident that would've put his parents on notice.

        “But he'd never done anything close. He'd never even been in a fight. The closest thing he'd ever done to violent was throwing a bike into a bonfire.”

        Despite dim prospects of col lecting on the damages sought, the parents will move forward with the suit when it is scheduled to go to court Aug. 7, said the mother of one slain girl.

        “It's a lot more important now that the correct message is sent. All the money in the world could not reimburse us for the loss of our daughter,” Sabrina Steger said in a telephone interview.

        Michael, who was 14 at the time, took guns to school Dec. 1, 1997, and opened fire into a student prayer group. The gunfire killed Kayce, Jessica and Nicole, and wounded five others.

        The suit brought by the girls' parents originally named 53 people, including the teen who helped Michael get the gun he used and the makers of video games that the parents allege motivated Michael to act violently.

        A pre-trial conference is scheduled for today in McCracken Circuit Court. Mr. Moore expects an appeal of Judge Shadoan's decision to follow.


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