LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A teen charged in the 2018 Kentucky school shooting that killed two students has pleaded guilty to murder.
Gabriel Ross Parker was 15 when he fired a handgun into a crowd of students before classes started at Marshall County High School on Jan. 23, 2018. Parker was arrested at the school and charged with murder. He later was charged as an adult.
Marshall County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Foust said the plea deal gives Parker a life sentence. Along with the murder convictions, he also pleaded guilty to 14 counts of assault.
Parker, now 18, appeared by teleconference on Tuesday before Marshall Circuit Judge James Jameson.
Foust said the coronavirus pandemic played a role in moving toward a plea agreement for Parker. The trial was scheduled to open June 1.
Foust, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the trial would likely have been pushed back to January at the earliest, and because of restrictions, he was having trouble lining up witnesses and medical experts.
“So at that point, some people are saying maybe it’s time to get some closure,” Foust said by phone Tuesday.
Killed in the shootings were Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both 15. Foust spoke with Holt and Cope’s parents about the plea deal before moving forward.
“It just made more sense to do this,” Foust said. Parker would be eligible for parole in 2038, he said.
WPSD-TV in Paducah first reported the plea agreement on Tuesday. Parker will be sentenced by a judge on June 12.
In a statement received by the news station on Tuesday, Parker’s mother, Mary Minyard, said she has struggled over the past two years to “express how deeply sorry I am for everything that has happened.”
“To the Holt and Cope families, I know there will never be words that I can say to make up for the precious lives you’ve lost, but I hope you know how deeply I feel that loss and how truly sorry I am,” Minyard wrote.
Parker told police investigators that he took the handgun used in the shooting from his stepfather’s bedroom closet, using a laundry basket to sneak it out of the room. Parker told police he had the gun in his bag when he went to school, pulled it out and began firing into a commons area.
He said in the hysteria after the shooting some students, not knowing he had fired the gun, urged him to join them in a safe room with other students.
One of the students huddled in that room, Keaton Conner, said in 2018 that she was talking to her mother on the phone when she saw Parker — who she didn’t know — with a “cold expression on his face.” Police later came into the room and arrested Parker, Conner said.
“He was the person who had just killed two of my classmates,” she said.