The teenager who shot and killed two students and injured more than a dozen other people at Marshall County High School was given two life sentences in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Gabriel Parker, who is now 18 years old, received his sentencing in Judge Jamie Jameson’s courtroom in Benton on Friday as part of a plea deal with the commonwealth. Parker pleaded guilty to two counts of murder and 14 counts of assault in late April.
Parker opened fire in the school in January 2018 and killed Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, both 15 years old. Family and friends remembered them at the high school graduation last month since they were supposed to graduate this year.
Close to a dozen people took the stand to give their victim impact statements including the parents of Preston.
Bryan Cope described his son as a boy full of life with a promising future and was a hero and best friend to his younger brother. While he was shy, Preston is described as someone who had a smile that lit up the room. He also addressed Parker who sat behind him.
“I don’t see good when I look at Gabe Parker. He has no remorse and no conscience. I see pure evil. I pray every day he never gets out of jail. He became an adult the second he pulled the trigger,” Bryan said. “The loss of our son is an amputation of our heart.”
Secret Holt, the mother of Bailey, tearfully described the moment she learned her daughter was killed. She said Bailey was sweet and nice who loved music and books.
“Bailey ran up 15 to 20 feet to get away from this monster. Her death certificate said she was shot multiple times in the torso. Can you imagine reading the death certificate of your child?” Secret said in front of the judge.
As soon as Secret announced what Parker took away from them, her husband turned around and stared at him for about 30 seconds. Secret said he was a “spawn of evil and a waste of space” and a “sorry low life piece of garbage.”
“You’ll never see the light of day again and for that I am grateful,” Secret tearfully said.
“Look at us in the face!” Secret yelled at Parker when her husband read his statement in front of his face about he wished he would be tortured for the rest of his days.
Other people who read their statements included parents of students who were injured.
By avoiding the trial, evidence and details in the investigation weren’t immediately released. The exact motive remains unclear, but commonwealth’s attorney Dennis Foust said in court that Parker may have been bored and was experimenting.
In an interview with investigators, Foust said Parker was “interested to see how things will happen.” Parker said in the interview that he was never bullied and didn’t do things on impulse generally. Foust said he was curious about prison.
“Life is very difficult. Prison is also difficult. I figured I could try. I just figured this would be the fastest,” the transcript from the interview read.
Parker never gave a statement but his attorney Timothy Griffiths believes he wasn’t evil.
“He was a child who had horribly lost his way and one day I hope he finds it, judge. Because he has a lot to atone for,” Griffiths said.
He spent most of his time behind bars in Christian County. Which prison he’ll be transferred wasn’t immediately known.
Families said they vow to be at every parole hearing to make sure Parker is never released.