On May 25, 1994, 17-year-old
Clay Shrout got ready for school differently than any other day. Instead
of getting his school work in order, he loaded a .380 caliber
killed his mother, father, and his two sisters.
Then he got in his
parents car and started driving. Along the way he kidnapped a girl he
knew at gun point. Eventually he drove to school where he held his class
hostage. After several hours Clay gave up to police.
Slaying of family nothing but evil: Shrout must pay
By Joe Braun - Kernel.uky.edu
Monday, February 20, 1995
Imagine your entire family being killed.
The pain and the sorrow you would experience having
your entire legacy wiped from the earth is indescribable. You always
would feel guilty as you thought of things you should have said or
things you could have done to prevent such an act. The absence of any
family to be there and support you in life's victories and defeats is a
sad lot for anyone.
I cannot envision such an image because much of who I
am and what I do revolves around my family. While I know someday I will
have to say goodbye to them in the physical sense, I do not expect to
have to do so until I have formed a family of my own on whom I can lean
Now add to that vision the idea that you killed them.
All of them, in cold blood.
The pain and the guilt is now 10 times worse, correct?
For one Northern Kentucky teenager, the nightmare is a reality, and one
he seems to be sleeping through quite well.
In each instance of arraignment or sentencing, there
has yet to be one single ounce of true emotion shown by Clay Shrout. You
cannot kill your entire family in cold blood and not be affected
Shrout seems to be the exception.
The boy, now 18, killed his father, mother and two
younger sisters with a .380 caliber pistol.
It was not a simple " bang, you're dead " scenario,
but rather a pre-meditated act of pure evil.
The pre-meditation can be shown since Shrout
allegedly set his alarm clock to be sure he awoke before his parents,
who usually rose early to go to work.
The act is one that makes even the most heartless of
souls churn with disgust. According to police, he went into their
bedroom and shot his parents, then proceeded to kill his two younger
After killing his sisters, he shot his father again
as he struggled to find enough energy to roll to the phone to call for
While an act such as this seems to be an act of
insanity, Shrout is not exactly a stupid person. Many of his teachers,
family friends and peers all told the media Shrout, an honor student,
was a bright person with an even brighter future.
They couldn't understand how someone like him, with a
loving, religious family, could do such a thing.
It seems the courts are buying this same argument and
have even allowed this idea to cloud their sentencing. Shrout pleaded
guilty, but mentally ill. The reason for such a plea is most likely that
no rational human being is capable of such a dastardly deed. The reality
is though, Shrout knew exactly what he was doing. He planned the event,
drove calmly to school after it took place and took his class hostage
only after he had discussed the act with a friend.
All signs of sanity present and in tact, aside from
the sheer horror of someone being able to do what he did.
It disgusts me that he, being considered a juvenile,
has gotten away with plea bargaining his sentencing to life in prison
without the possibility of parole for 25 years. This allowed him to
avoid the death sentence, as if this was a real threat in a state such
as Kentucky, which is afraid to carry out the law and execute anyone.
On Friday he is scheduled to be resentenced since he
is now 18. Boone County Circuit Court Judge Jay Bamberger should throw
the book at Shrout and not think twice about it.
While the possibility of medical treatment is an
option, it still does not excuse the act or his rational behavior in
executing the plan.
If ever there was a reason to dust off the electric
chair in Kentucky, it is with this case. The court needs to realize what
many already have, his erratic behavior and sheer intelligence make him
unqualified for a pathetic plea such as insanity or mental instability.
If he sits in jail for the rest of his life, the guilt just won't do.
The only suitable punishment for such a disgusting
act is reserved seating in Kentucky's favorite lazy recliner.
Recap: Events in day
By William Croyle -
May 25, 2004
Less than two hours after he was arrested for
killing his family and holding 22 classmates at gunpoint, Clay
Shrout was interviewed by Boone County Detective Jerry Goins.
Following is a recap of that day's events, based on a transcript of
that interview, along with interviews from law enforcement officials
conducted in recent weeks.
At 5:45 a.m. May 26, 1994, Clay Nathaniel Shrout shot
and killed his parents and two sisters in the family's upscale Florence
Three hours later, the 17-year-old Ryle High School
junior held his trigonometry class and teacher hostage. The standoff
ended peacefully, but might not have if Shrout had seen his English
teacher that day.
"There's no doubt in my mind if he'd have seen his
English teacher first, we'd have had multiple homicides," said Jeff
Martin, who was commander at the time of the Criminal Investigations
Division of the Boone County Police Department.
One friend, in a written statement a month after the
shootings, said Shrout was angry at her because he was flunking English.
The friend said Shrout told him that he was going to shoot her on
Thursday, May 26. "I didn't tell anybody because, who would have
believed me?" the friend said.
Shrout told police he was also angry at his parents
for taking away his weapons, and an assistant principal for confiscating
his stun gun that week. He even drew a picture of that assistant
principal tied to a pole with gasoline poured around him.
In 1994, Shrout pleaded guilty by reason of insanity
and received a life sentence. He's eligible for parole in 2019, but
Martin said Shrout is not insane and will kill again if he's let out.
Shrout's day planned
Shrout was arrested at Ryle about 9 a.m. He was transported to the
Boone County police station, where Detective Jerry Goins (now deceased)
According to the transcript, Shrout had a plan when
he set his alarm clock for 5 a.m. that day.
"I was either going to take some stuff and all the
money I could find and leave ... or I was going to kill (my family) and
take some stuff and disappear," Shrout told Goins. "I didn't want to be
stopped so I decided I had to kill them."
Shrout retrieved a loaded Colt .380 Mustang pistol
that morning that his father kept in the Jeep. He emptied the gun to
figure out how it worked, then reloaded it. He went to his parents' room
where they were sleeping and shot them.
His mother, Rebecca, 44, died first. Shrout then went
into his sister's room where Kristen, 14, was awake. He shot and killed
As he walked past his parents' room to kill his other
sister, he heard a noise. His dad, Harvey, 43, was still alive on the
bed. "I got scared when I saw him and I fired two more shots at him,"
Harvey was now dead. Shrout then shot and killed
Lauren, 12, in her room after she told him about a nice dream she had.
"Two reasons why I shot my sisters," Shrout told
Goins. "The first one was I didn't want them to have to live without
their parents. And also my older sister (Kristin). She had enough
intelligence to pick up the phone and call the police ... and I didn't
want to be stopped."
The terror continues
Shrout left in the Jeep, but didn't disappear as planned. "I
couldn't remember where roads went and some roads were the wrong roads,"
Shrout said. "I couldn't remember if I was going to go anywhere or not."
He stopped at an Ameristop across from Ryle High to
buy juice, then drove to a nearby subdivision and parked in a cul-de-sac.
He called some friends, telling one he had just killed his family.
"She didn't believe me," Shrout told Goins.
He then went to the home of another female friend -
his prom date from two weeks earlier - who attended another school and
was on summer break. She opened the door and stepped outside. "I grabbed
her arm and pulled out the gun. I told her to be quiet and walk toward
the Jeep," Shrout said.
They drove to Ryle and at about 8:35 a.m. walked into
his trigonometry class, where there were 22 students. The friend he
kidnapped sat at a desk while Shrout made an announcement.
"He told me that a student had gone crazy and was
holding a class hostage and to lock the door," teacher Carol Kanabroski
told police in a written statement. "As he was saying this he pulled a
gun out from his pants."
This was Shrout's first-period class, but it's
unclear why he took them hostage. Martin said Shrout's friends heard him
talk about killing but didn't believe him.
Shrout told Goins that his English teacher called his
parents earlier in the week because he hadn't turned in "some major
assignment." But he said nothing to Goins about wanting to kill her.
In fact, he didn't seem to know what he wanted to do
in Kanabroski's class. He sat at her desk holding the gun, but not
pointing it at anybody.
"I said I don't care (what you do), just go on doing
whatever you were doing," Shrout said. "I'm just going to sit here for a
Shrout said most students were quiet. A few cried.
Some talked to him.
"I hadn't stopped them from doing anything. I was
just sitting there ... drinking a thing of apple juice."
Shrout let Kanabroski answer a knock at the door. It
was a student asking her to sign a paper. Kanabroski mouthed to the
student that someone had a gun. The student told administrators, who
called police. It was 8:46 when Officer Pete Schierloh, about a mile
away from the school, got the call.
"'Subject with a gun.' That's all they said," said
Schierloh, recalling that day 10 years ago. "I really had no idea what
was going on."
Then there was an announcement over the school
intercom for Superintendent Ted Wetekamp to report to the main office.
But Wetekamp wasn't at the school. The announcement was the school's
signal to teachers that there was an emergency - and Shrout knew it.
"Whenever that happens, the teachers are supposed to
shut and lock their doors," Shrout said. "No one is supposed to know
about that, but we know about that anyway."
It was now 8:48. Assistant Principal Stephen Sorrell
came to the door and asked Shrout to come out.
"I said, 'I don't want to,'" Shrout said. "He said, 'We
have to talk.' And I'm like, 'Why can't we talk in here?' And he's like,
'If I come in, can they leave?' I said, 'Sure.'"
The students and Kanabroski left the room. Sorrell
entered and sat near Shrout on the edge of a filing cabinet. He asked
for the gun but Shrout didn't budge - until he saw Schierloh outside the
Schierloh, who had just arrived, reached for his gun.
Shrout saw that and immediately gave his gun to Sorrell, ending the
ordeal. It was 8:52 a.m..
"He just gave up. It was very much a non-event," said
Schierloh, who never drew his gun. "From the time I got there to the
time I had him in cuffs was about 20 seconds."
It was about 9 o'clock when Martin entered the room
to talk to Shrout. That's when Shrout told him about the murders.
Martin sent Sgt. Jack Banks and Lt. Mike Jarmin to
the Shrout home. They arrived at 9:11 a.m., entering through an open
back door. They went upstairs and found the family dead. All four had
been shot in the head.
The coroner arrived at 9:41. Investigators found six
shell casings and a bullet hole in a master bedroom window. From
Shrout's room they collected numerous items, including drawings, six
marijuana cigarettes, and a book, The Complete Book of Spells,
Ceremonies & Magic.
Shrout told Goins that his parents caught him with alcohol and
marijuana. There was the stun gun he was caught with at school. And his
English grade dropped from a B+ to an F in one quarter.
His parents grounded him for some of that and also
took away his phone, the keys to his truck and some weapons he'd
collected, including knives, num-chucks, a sword and a BB gun.
Shrout told Goins he had the weapons for protection,
even though he said nobody really bothered him.
"All that I resented was when they took my weapons
away," Shrout said. He said his parents had every right to take his
truck and phone since they paid for them.
But "they took my weapons and something happened," he
He said he argued with his mom a lot, but "I didn't
hate her," he told Goins. "Every time I was around her I just got real
frustrated. My dad and I got along real well, though."
Shrout said he felt "trapped in a way, like there is
no room for me anymore" in society.
"Like colleges. Everyone decided that I had to go to
college. This was decided for me before I was born," Shrout said. "I
resented them trying to make me out a special mold without asking me
what I really wanted to be first."
Martin said Shrout is an evil person who needs to
remain locked up.
"Based on what I saw that day, what he told us and
why he did things, I have no doubt that if Clay Shrout gets out of
prison, he will kill again," Martin said.
Prison behavior a problem
29 pages of infractions in decade behind bars
By Cindy Kranz - The Cincinnati Enquirer
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
EDDYVILLE, Ky. - During his 10 years behind bars, Clay Shrout has been
anything but a model prisoner.
Shrout, 27, has chalked up 29 pages of disciplinary
actions in the four facilities where he has been incarcerated since
His possession of an L-shaped, 10-inch stainless
steel bar and a plan to escape earned him a transfer in 1996 from the
minimum security Kentucky Reformatory at LaGrange to the maximum
security prison at Eddyville in southwestern Kentucky.
In 1997, guards there confiscated from him what
appeared to be the makings of a knife, prison records show.
The latest disciplinary reports in his file are for
failure to stand for the prisoner count - most recently on Aug. 25,
Shrout avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty,
but mentally ill, for the May 26, 1994, murders of his parents and two
sisters in their Florence home. Charges related to holding his
trigonometry class hostage that day were dropped.
He was sentenced Oct. 14, 1994, as a 17-year-old
juvenile to life without parole for 25 years each on four counts of
murder. After his 18th birthday, he was resentenced and committed to the
custody of the Kentucky Department of Corrections as an adult Feb. 24,
1995. While his health records are not public because of federal privacy
laws, previous news reports indicated he had not sought mental health
help while behind bars.
Shrout did not respond to a request for an
Enquirer interview. He is eligible for parole in May 2019, but Jeff
Martin, commander of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Boone
County Police Department at the time of the incident, rates Shrout's
chances for parole as "slim to none."
"I can't imagine that he would be considered. If they
let Clay Shrout out, Clay Shrout will kill again," he said.
Blood in the School Yard
A young boy explodes and turns a classroom into a
killing ground. Then it happens again. Then again. Then again. the
killers are misfits, lonely and angry, their morbid fantasies fed by
violent movies, videos and music. They have stripped away the last
innocent veneer of American childhood.
By Lisa Popyk, Special to The Post
In small towns across America, the quiet, the meek,
the mild-mannered are striking out with deadly, premeditated violence. A
twisted view of reality tells them that killing is the best way to speak
The quiet youngsters next door have become today's
school yard shooters - 13 of them in the last five years.
The unpredictable, unforgiving and senseless force of
the crimes, and the youthful faces behind them, have scarred America's
image of childhood innocence.
Yet experts in psychology, psychiatry and criminology
say they're surprised that there have been just 13. More, they believe,
are certain to follow.
''You can't have the kind of saturation of violence
that we have today without it manifesting itself somewhere,'' said Dewey
Cornell, director of the University of Virginia Youth Violence Project.
''It's like a virus spreading through a large
population of people. Not everyone gets sick. Just the most vulnerable,
and then with varying degrees of illness.''
The most vulnerable, he said, are today's children,
particularly the lonely, disconnected, misfit child.
In each recent school yard slaying, the gunman was a
young male, viewed by peers as weak and by himself as isolated, alone.
He found an outlet in violence in movies, on television, on the internet,
in his own life. Often he began collecting weapons, writing about
violence, torturing animals. In his confused mind, the image of him with
a gun and his tormentors cowering at his feet began to loom large. He
experienced a power surge beyond understanding, says John Nicoletti of
Colorado, an expert in police psychology who is writing a book on school
''Once they've drawn first blood,'' Nicoletti said,
''you usually can't talk them down. They've reached the point of no
Filled with rage, the child - almost always a boy -
suppresses his emotions until he explodes in a bid to take control of
his life and be heard. Girls in such situations develop control through
eating disorders and turn their rage inward; boys explode in violence,
In 1994, Greater Cincinnati awoke to the problem when
a Union, Ky., teen slaughtered his upper-middle-class family one morning.
Clay Shrout (left), who felt neglected and outcast, stood outside a
convenience store drinking juice after murdering his parents and two
little sisters. ''You don't even know what I just did,'' he mumbled to
passersby. He then headed to Ryle High School with his weapons cache.
For Luke Woodham, the bloody stabbing death of his
mother and shooting of two students in 1997 was euphoric. He was still
high on adrenaline, and smiling, when he gave police a videotaped
confession 20 minutes after his arrest in Pearl, Miss. Filled with
bravado and swagger, he said: ''I wanted attention, someone to notice
me. I guess the world's going to remember me now.''
And the slight, quiet Andrew Wurst was suddenly in
charge, empowered by a .25 caliber Raven, when he sauntered through a
panic-stricken school dance in Edinboro, Penn., in April of this year.
He waved the firearm at his friends as they fled in
fear and calmly walked up behind his cowering principal. The gun aimed
at her forehead, he said: ''That's not going to save you.''
Nicoletti and others say violent images in the media
equate murder with power. And it tells lonely, isolated children that
they gain control and command attention by wielding a gun. They point to
movies like ''Natural Born Killers,'' a 1994 thinly-veiled satire
featuring two brutal serial killers who become international heroes.
Several of the youngsters involved in recent school yard shootings named
this movie in particular as an influencing force.
In the film, lead characters Mickey and Mallory
vindicate a lifetime of injustice and abuse - and find true love - by
slaying more than 50 people. Murder is equated with freedom. At one
point, after making his first kill, a character says, ''I'm alive for
the first time in my life.'' In the end, the killers walk free.
The controversial box-office hit is a sensational
example, Cornell said, that does not stand alone.
Movies, photographs, video games and song lyrics that
would have turned stomachs even five years ago, today don't raise an
''Maybe,'' Cornell said, ''what we're seeing is an
indication that our saturation of violence is reaching a tipping point.
And early adolescents are like the miner's canaries, the first to
succumb to the poisoned air.
''That doesn't mean they're not responsible, morally
or legally. But we shouldn't be surprised that they're being affected by
At least two of the nation's recent school gunmen
said they were inspired by violence on television and in literature.
Fourteen-year-old Barry Loukaitis claims his shooting
spree in Moses Lake, Wash., in 1996 was inspired by Pearl Jam's music
video ''Jeremy,'' the movies ''Natural Born Killers'' and ''The
Basketball Diaries,'' and the book ''Rage.''
All had killing as a central theme; three included a
classroom mass murder.
''Jeremy'' is based on the real life story of a Texas
teen who in 1991 killed himself in front of his class. But the video,
named Video of the Year in 1993, depicts a lonely teen who kills all his
classmates after enduring taunts. Police found a copy of the video in
Loukaitis also repeatedly watched ''Natural Born
Killers.'' He often quoted from the movie and told friends he thought it
would be ''fun to go on a killing spree.''
Police also found in Loukaitis' bedroom a collection
of Stephen King's books, including a well-worn copy of ''Rage,'' in
which a troubled boy kills his algebra teacher and takes the class
King has since apologized for writing the book,
saying he penned it during a troubling period in his life. He said he
wished it never had been published.
On February 2, 1996, following weeks of discussion,
Loukaitis acted out his fantasy. Dressed all in black, with boots and a
long overcoat to conceal the rifle at his side - just as Leonardo
DiCaprio did during a dream sequence in ''The Basketball Diaries'' - he
sauntered into his fifth-period algebra class and opened fire.
With three people dead, a fourth critically wounded
and nearly two dozen other students crying around him, Loukaitis smiled
and said: ''This sure beats algebra, doesn't it?''
His key target was a classmate who days earlier had
called him a fag.
Less than a year later, bright, quiet Michael Carneal
also said that he was inspired by ''The Basketball Dairies'' to murder
three classmates in Paducah, Ky.
A year after seeing the movie, Carneal was still
telling friends he, too, was ''planning something big.''
On December 12, 1997, he packed up an arsenal of
stolen guns and headed to Heath High School, (shown at right) where the
small, bespectacled freshman unpacked a .22-caliber handgun, inserted
two earplugs and began shooting. Eight students fell, three were killed.
Kip Kinkel, who killed four people including his
parents in Springfield, Ore., was so obsessed with excessively violent
programming that his parents told friends they had to disconnect their
''Violence is so pervasive in our culture, I don't
think any child escapes it,'' said Charles Patrick Ewing, a clinical and
forensic psychologist at the State University of New York and author of
the book ''Kids Who Kill,'' (Lexington Books, $5.99 paperback.)
''More children think about (committing acts of
violence) than don't,'' Ewing said. ''For every one who acts on it, 99
others think about it.''
Today, it's easier than ever before for children to
act out those violent fantasies. Easier, experts said, because of three
key factors: the consequences aren't clear, no one is listening and
dangerous information is only a keyboard away.
''One of the key factors is that all children and
most adolescents do not understand the finality of death,'' said Scott
Poland, chairman of the National Emergency Disaster Team for the
National Association of School Psychologists.
It's a difficult concept for any youngster, but one
made even more complicated by the proliferation of quick and apparently
painless death depicted on TV, in the movies and on music videos. No one
suffers and no one gets punished, said Marjorie Creswell of the National
School Safety Center.
Consider the following from the National Television
Violence Study, which reflect three years of research:
85 percent of all programming shown on the three
premium cable channels and 44 percent of programming on broadcast
networks includes violent acts;
73 percent of perpetrators go unpunished in these
47 percent fail to depict the harm to victims and 58
percent show no pain.
Video games almost never show the consequences. And
the running joke of the wildly-popular cable cartoon ''South Park'' is a
child dying in a different way every week. Kip Kinkel sat down to watch
it after murdering his parents in the next room.
Yet people have become so accustomed to talk of blood
and gore, hate and killing, that few take a child's preoccupation with
the macabre seriously, Ewing said.
''Children do things for shock value. The problem is,
that we have a much greater tolerance for deviance, so it's tough to
shock or alarm us,'' Ewing said.
''Plus, we're so into giving people their own space
that the boundaries of normalcy for adolescence have become pretty broad.
And honestly, that's B.S. A child talking about building bombs, abusing
animals and killing people is not normal.''
In each of the recent school shootings, the youth
involved talked about his plans before hand. Most wrote dark, morbid and
death-filled papers for school assignments. Several admitted to or
bragged about abusing animals and wanting to feel the sensation of
taking a life.
Making that mix even more volatile is that today's
children have greater access than ever before to materials and
information that can readily turn a violent fantasy into reality, Ewing
said. Through the Internet they quickly can learn about bomb making,
hand guns, ritualistic killings, the occult and groups ready to foster
''It's a whole new, secret world that they can get
lost in,'' Nicoletti said.
Most of the school yard shooters had downloaded
violence-related materials and stock piled weapons shortly before their
Shrout, Kinkel, Woodham and Carneal all used
computers to learn about bomb building, guns and violence. Their
computers served as their links to a place that their parents most
likely would not have approved of, or allowed them to enter.
''Juvenile killers don't just wake up one day and
become juvenile killers,'' Ewing said. ''Homicide, like most behavior,