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Ky. Sheriff Doubts More Arrests

December 8, 1997

PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) _ The investigation into a high school shooting spree is winding down with no indication that anyone helped a student charged with killing three classmates.

Sheriff Frank Augustus doubts there will be more arrests in the shootings last Monday at Heath High School that killed three students and wounded five others as they finished their daily informal prayers, The Paducah Sun reported today.

``We just aren’t hearing anything to show that anyone helped plan the shooting, that anyone encouraged it or that anyone had knowledge that it was going to take place,″ Augustus said Sunday.

Investigators spent the weekend interviewing more witnesses and friends of 14-year-old Michael Carneal, who is charged as a juvenile with murder and attempted murder in the shootings.

``Right now, I don’t foresee that we’ll make any more arrests,″ Augustus said. ``I think some people had bits and pieces of information that something was going to happen. But I don’t think any one person knew enough that charges can be filed.″

Augustus said the active investigation into whether anyone else was involved could end today or Tuesday after interviews with students. Authorities will then turn to preparing the case against Carneal.

``At some point, you reach the point of diminishing return,″ County Attorney Dan Boaz said of the initial phase of the investigation.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Kaltenbach said he will seek the maximum penalty, life without the possibility of parole for 25 years. No one younger than 16 can be executed under Kentucky’s death penalty law.

In addition to the three students left dead, two others were partially paralyzed and three suffered lesser injuries.

On Sunday, churchgoers in this western Kentucky town prayed for the victims.

``Grief can take many forms,″ the Rev. Don Young told a packed Bible Baptist Church, where people gathered just 48 hours earlier to mourn the deaths of Nicole Hadley, Jessica James and Kayce Steger. ``Sometimes it even takes anger. But it sure does take your energy.″

A theme of transformation from tragedy to triumph permeated Young’s message, driven home by an excerpt from a poem written by Chuck and Gwen Hadley in memory of their slain 14-year-old daughter.

``Her smile remains although she’s gone.

Her subtle shyness now prevails.

Sight unseen, but always here.

Her name, Nicole, remains so dear.″

The Hadleys attended the service but left the reading to a pastor.

At St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Carneal’s family sat near the front, there was a message of forgiveness.

During closing prayers, the Rev. Paul Donner asked the congregation to pray for Michael Carneal and his family. As the Carneal family headed down the aisle after the service, other church members grabbed them and gave them hugs.