JACKSBORO (WATE) – Kenny Bartley was found guilty Friday afternoon of reckless homicide in the 2005 Campbell County High School shootings, but not guilty of felony murder or attempted first degree murder.
The jury returned the verdict Friday afternoon after just under three hours of deliberations.
Bartley was found guilty of reckless homicide in the death of Assistant Principal Ken Bruce, but not guilty of felony murder.
He was also found not guilty of attempted first degree murders in the shootings of Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce.
Guilty verdicts were returned on counts of possession of a firearm at school and possession of controlled substances.
Bartley was released from jail on $7,500 bond. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Reckless homicide carries a sentence of two to four years. Bartley has already been in jail for over eight years.
Bartley, then 14, was accused of bringing a gun to Campbell County High School on November 8, 2005. When administrators confronted him, Bartley allegedly fired the weapon.
Assistant Principal Ken Bruce was killed. Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were wounded.
Closing arguments were delivered Friday morning.
Prosecutor Mike Ripley started closing arguments by telling the jurors there were 20 opportunities for Bartley to make a decision to prevent the shooting.
“[Bartley] didn’t have to shoot Mr. Pierce when Mr. Pierce tried to stop him. He could have just said ‘I give. I’ve shot two I don’t need to shoot anymore,'” Ripley said.
Ripley told the jurors the shooting was intentional and premeditated, not random.
“It can’t possibly be random. He puts [the gun] on [Bruce’s] shoulder. The testimony of Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan, remember the testimony. Muzzle abrasion on the wound puts it on his shoulder,” he said. “It’s not random at all. There’s another word for it. It’s called slaughter.”
During the defense closing arguments, Bartley’s attorney Greg Isaacs put a large photo of Bartley in front of the courtroom and told the jurors the shooting was the reckless act of a child.
He said the state has not proved that Bartley was not panicked or scared and that Bartley told multiple people he had brought the gun to school to trade for drugs.
“Kenny’s heart is pounding. The adrenaline is flowing and he pulls the gun out, and his words at he told you up here, he was scared and he panicked,” said Isaacs.
Isaacs said Bartley never planned on killing anyone when he brought the gun to school.
He said Bartley shot at random and the spray of bullets should indicate that. He also said the state cannot prove that he went into the office with the intent to harm anyone. Isaacs said Bartley simply panicked.
During the state’s final rebuttal argument, Attorney Lori Phillips Jones pointed out that a contact wound, like that found on Bruce’s body, cannot be caused from across the room or a random spray of bullets.
She pointed out his neighbor was a four-minute ride away on a four-wheeler, so there was no reason he needed to take the gun to school to trade it for drugs.
She also showed jurors the surveillance video of Bartley before and after the shooting, showing no signs of panic.
Phillips Jones also brought out her own posted-sized photo, that of deceased victim Ken Bruce.
She reiterated the testimony from Pierce and Seale that Bartley said he would show them the gun was real and that he didn’t like them anyway before firing.
She also claimed Bartley didn’t talk about killing Bruce on the stand because there was no way to explain away killing him point blank. She said this was a deliberate tactic on the part of the defense.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood then gave the jury instructions, describing each charge and what they had to decide. The jury was then given the case to deliberate.
Reaction to the verdict
“We asked the jury to look at the evidence, follow the evidence and make the correct decision, a just verdict. The jury listened and they made a decision that has changed this family and this young man’s life,” said Isaacs after the decision.
Ken Bruce’s widow Jo Bruce says justice was not served for her deceased husband, or shooting victims Jim Pierce and Gary Seale.
“They victimized and re-victimized my family for eight years, and we sat in that courtroom with our head held high because we believed in the justice system. It failed us today,” said Bruce.
“All I want anyone to think about when they go to bed tonight is about my husband Ken Bruce whose hands were up in the air, body bent over with a gun in his back, shot mercilessly,” she continued.
There was also a variety of reaction in the Campbell County community.
“He was a child. I think he should have been treated as a child, not as an adult,” said Suzie Love. “I don’t think he could think properly and he just needed guidance and some kind of direction in life .not a jail sentence. I know it was murder but he was a child.”
“Not really too much of a punishment, because if he gets back out here and think, you know, if he does try to do something else like that, he thinks that he can get in there and just get right back out of it,” said Marissa Wallace.
“Of course my heart just sank when I heard about such a tragedy,” said Dormas Miller. “You look back on it and wish it didn’t happen, but now that it’s over, obviously I don’t take sides either way. The jury made their decision and we got to live with that.”
6 News Reporters STEPHANIE BEECKEN and MONA NAIR contributed to this report.