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Miss. School Shooting Trial Begins

June 10, 1998

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) _ A teen-age boy told jurors today how classmate Luke Woodham walked through a crowded school commons with a gun, saying it looked ``like a horror movie″ as he killed two students and wounded seven others.

Testimony started after opening arguments in which the 17-year-old’s attorney told jurors that the issue in the trial was not whether Woodham pulled the trigger but his sanity at the time.

``Luke Woodham on Oct. 1 did enter Pearl High School. He did have a gun. He did fire and nine people were hit,″ defense attorney Leslie Roussell acknowledged.

District Attorney John Kitchens, who successfully prosecuted Woodham last week for the stabbing and beating death of his mother, told jurors the school attack was ``a criminal act, a mean act ... an act of murder that was committed with a rifle you hunt deer with, not children.″

Among the first witnesses was Adam Scott, a 10th-grader at the time of the school shooting, who described the scene as ``like a horror movie.″

``We were standing there in the commons and heard a loud boom and everything got real quiet,″ said Scott, who was not injured. ``I saw him walk up to the first girl and pull out a gun and shoot her.

``Everything got real quiet and started moving in slow motion. I saw him walk over and shoot the second girl and everyone started running.″

Russell Shows, now a senior and a friend of Woodham’s, said he was in the commons with classmate Justin Sledge when Woodham walked up and spoke to Sledge.

Shows said Sledge then told him ``no matter what I heard, no matter what I saw, don’t turn around. Just keep going forward. I didn’t see anything. I just heard gunshots.″

Sledge, 16 at the time of the shootings, is one of several teen-agers charged with conspiracy in the case. He and four others were allegedly members of a satanic group called ``The Kroth.″

The shootings in Pearl, a community of about 16,000 just east of Jackson, were the first in a series of school-related attacks around the nation, from West Paducah, Ky., to Springfield, Ore.

Woodham was sentenced to life in prison for killing his mother, 50-year-old Mary Woodham, earlier on the morning of Oct. 1. He faces another life sentence if convicted of murder, aggravated assault and conspiracy charges in the school shootings. He cannot receive the death penalty.

The trial was moved to Forrest County, 80 miles from Pearl, because of pretrial publicity, though few in the jury pool had not heard about the case. Last week’s trial was also moved, to the small town of Philadelphia.

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