East Carter High School shooter suspected in assault

East Carter High School shooter suspected in assault

A conract food services worker at the Kentucky State Penitentiary was assaulted and seriously injured Saturday, allegedly by the man serving a life sentence for the 1993 slayings of a teacher and a custodian at East Carter High School.

Gary Scott Pennington, 38, was placed in segregation pending internal and external charges following the incident, which occurred about 1:45 p.m. Saturday, according to a news release from the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

The worker, JoAnne Smith, was taken by helicopter to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Ind. The DOC said Monday she had been discharged from the hospital.

Prison spokesman Adam Noles said Monday he wasn’t at liberty to release additional details of the incident because it remains under investigation.

The Kentucky State Police post at Mayfield is handling the criminal investigation. Trooper First Class Jay Thomas, a post spokesman, said Monday that the post’s standard operating procedure in crimes involving inmates at the penitentiary was to take the cases directly to a Lyon County grand jury. He said he anticipated the KSP would follow that same procedure with Pennington.

With credit for time served prior to his conviction, Pennington will become eligible for parole on Jan. 7, 2018. Saturday’s incident could impact his chances of being released.

Pennington was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for 25 years in the Jan. 18, 2003, shooting deaths of ECHS English teacher Deanna McDavid, 48, and school custodian Marvin Hicks, 51. Pennington gunned down the two with his father’s .38-caliber revolver, which he had smuggled into the school in his backpack. The shootings occurred during Mc-David’s seventh-period English class.

McDavid had reportedly tried to reach out to Pennington prior to her death because she was disturbed by the recurring themes of death and violence in his classwork. Pennington had also told classmates he was upset with Mc-David because she had given him a “C” as his midterm English grade, which Pennington feared would be a blot on his academic record. He had pleaded with McDavid to change the grade, but she refused.

Pennington, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, was arraigned in juvenile court, but was subsequently certified to stand trial as an adult. He was charged with two counts of murder and 22 counts of kidnapping. More than two years after the shootings, in February 1995, Pennington was convicted of those charges. Because of the notoriety of the case, his trial had to be moved twice, first to Morgan County and then to Johnson County, to seat an impartial jury.

The shootings at ECHSwere among the first of what became a number of incidents of violence at mostly small town high schools in America. Nearly five years later, in December 1997, the same type of violence would occur at another Kentucky high school when 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on a group of students who had gathered for morning prayer at Heath High School in West Paducah, killing three and injuring five.