• U.S.

Locking Up The Voices

2 minute read
Nadya Labi

In April 1998, one month before Kipland Kinkel embarked on a shooting rampage in Springfield, Ore., that killed his father, mother and two students and wounded 25 others, he yelled out in class, “Goddam these voices in my head!” He was disciplined for swearing, but no one paid much mind to those voices.

The voices were pretty much ignored again last week when an Oregon judge sentenced Kinkel, 17, to 111 years imprisonment with no possibility of parole. He had pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder, and his sentence was the severest penalty possible for a juvenile in Oregon.

Defense experts testified that Kinkel was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and had been fighting voices telling him to kill since he was 12. In 1997 he was found to have depression and anger-management problems and put on Prozac, which he later stopped taking. Critics of the sentence are disturbed that Kinkel’s illness was not given due weight and feel that he is unlikely to get proper mental-health care in prison. “It’s throwing away a life without regard for the possibility that Kinkel could change or that the circumstances that led to this could be mediated,” says Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. But Jennifer Alldredge, a student shot by Kinkel, is unmoved: “I don’t see how you could ever justify someone who did this being outside and free to do this again,” she says.

Though he kept his head down for much of the hearing, Kinkel met the eyes of his victims when they spoke. “I am very sorry for everything I have done,” he said, “and for what I have become.”

–By Nadya Labi. Reported by Todd Murphy/Portland

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