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Prosecutor: Movie’s school slaying scene may have influenced suspect

December 4, 1997

WEST PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) _ The 14-year-old boy accused of fatally shooting three fellow students may have been influenced by a Leonardo DiCaprio movie that depicts a young man killing a teacher and students, a prosecutor said today.

Michael Carneal acknowledged viewing ``The Basketball Diaries,″ a 1995 film based on the life of New York poet Jim Carroll, a former high school basketball player who turned to drugs, Commonwealth’s Attorney Timothy Kaltenbach said.

``These movies are a factor. People come up with some of these ideas,″ Kaltenbach said.

The film includes a dream scene, in which Carroll shoots classmates and a teacher, and several scenes depict religion in a negative light.

Carneal is charged with opening fire on students at the conclusion of an informal daily prayer meeting Monday morning in the lobby of Heath High School. Three girls died and five other students were wounded.

One of two girls who remain hospitalized has been paralyzed from the waist down, Principal Bill Bond said today. Missy Jenkins, 15, was in stable condition. The second girl, Shelley Schaberg, 14, was in satisfactory condition and expected to be released from the hospital soon.

Without going into specifics, the prosecutor said evidence has surfaced that Carneal had planned the crime for as long as a year. Kaltenbach said others possibly knew of plans for the shootings and another arrest was possible.

``If someone engaged in the planning process, they will be punished,″ he said.

Sheriff Frank Augustus said Wednesday he had a ``gut feeling″ the shooter didn’t act alone.

Kaltenbach, who plans to seek the maximum penalty of life without parole for 25 years for Carneal, said the boy has shown little emotion during interviews.

``The thing that struck me was the lack of emotion to acknowledge what he had done to the victims and to himself ... and to his parents,″ he said.

Augustus said he wondered whether the five guns carried into the school _ a pistol with extra ammunition, two rifles and two shotguns _ were for accomplices. Augustus said, however, that he didn’t anticipate other arrests.

The boy remains in a juvenile detention center in another part of the state, charged with murder, attempted murder and burglary. Authorities say he stole the guns from a neighbor’s garage on Thanksgiving Day.

On Wednesday, Carneal’s older sister, Kelly Carneal, returned to classes for the first time since the shootings. Afraid she would be ostracized, she found instead classmates who welcomed her with a remarkable sense of forgiveness.

Bond said one student confided to him that he was uncomfortable being in classes all day with the 17-year-old sister, a senior who is expected to be the class valedictorian.

``We talked for a long time, and we talked about anger and controlling that anger, and that anger is a natural thing,″ Bond said. ``There’s some anger, yes, but he dealt with it and spent the rest of the day with Kelly. He understood that she’s not the person who did this.″

It was Miss Carneal who drove her brother to school on Monday, but authorities said they believe she didn’t know what he had planned. The rifles were wrapped in a quilt, a bundle he explained were props for a science experiment.

Funeral services for Nicole Hadley, 14, Kayce Steger, 15, and Jessica James, 17, and will be held Friday.