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WAVE 3 TV (Louisville, Ky.) interviewSept. 10, 2008
For video of this story, visit www.wave3.com/global/story.asp?s=8988654
A WAVE 3 Exclusive: Heath High victim talks about confronting her attacker in prison
By Carrie Weil - bio | email
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email
LOUISVILE, KY (WAVE) - Thursday, a shocking case of high school violence goes before the Kentucky Supreme Court. Michael Carneal shot and killed his classmates almost 11-years ago in Paducah. One of the survivors stole the headlines by offering forgiveness almost immediately, even though she is paralyzed. WAVE 3's Carrie Weil had an exclusive interview with Missy Jenkins, who actually went to the prison to face Carneal.
Today, life for Missy Jenkins Smith is about as all-American as it comes.
"My now husband asked me to marry him on my birthday, which is Christmas Eve, then we got married June 24th of '06 and then after that I found out I was pregnant in January of '07," said Missy.
She is now married to her college sweetheart and learning to balance motherhood with the rest of life. For Missy, that includes juggling little son Logan and television interviews. But as natural as it all seems, Missy says this life has been a choice.
On December 1, 1997, just before school started for the day, 14-year-old Michael Carneal walked into Heath High School, pulled out a shotgun and started firing. Carneal killed three girls and wounded five others. Missy was paralyzed. In that moment, she says her life's purpose became clear.
"This is actually something I decided on doing right after the shooting happened," said Missy.
Missy and her twin sister graduated from college - the first in their family to do so - with social work degrees. Now Missy is a counselor for the Calloway County schools.
"I have come across a lot of people who have had issues with bullying. I've even had kids who have brought weapons to school, whether it be a knife or a BB gun," she said. "I really feel like that was a position that I could give back to hopefully help somebody that was like the guy who shot me at my school."
It is a message she's put on paper. Missy has a book coming out in October called, "I choose to be happy." It is a book about awareness, forgiveness and finding answers - a journey that brought her to the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.
"As soon as I was driving up the penitentiary, it was very scary it was creepy," said Missy.
She spent three hours face to face with Carneal.
Missy said, "It was just very different and odd to be in that situation and him being right there and then knowing he was the person who attempted to murder me."
According to Missy, Carneal answered every one of her questions. The emotional conversation is detailed in her book.
She says, "I think it was the closest think I could get to closure."
Missy still thinks about the shooting every day, not because she's angry or wants revenge, but it's a reality of her life. It has changed her every movement but not her will.
"I think that pretty much everything I always wanted, I've got, which would be getting married and having my child and having a profession that I enjoy," says Missy.
The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear Michael Carneal's appeal for a new trial on Thursday. Missy Jenkins Smith plans to be in that courtroom. While she forgives Carneal, Missy believes he needs to stay behind bars.