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Teen pleads innocent in high school shooting

Woodham restrained

Friends described him as quiet, moody

October 2, 1997
Web posted at: 4:56 p.m. EDT (2056 GMT)

PEARL, Mississippi (CNN) -- Luke Woodham, a 10th-grader accused of shooting to death two students at his high school and fatally stabbing his mother, pleaded not guilty Thursday to adult charges of murder and aggravated assault.

The 16-year-old, wearing an orange jumpsuit and a bulletproof vest, repeatedly clenched and unclenched his right hand at the brief arraignment.

Public defender Richard Wilson entered innocent pleas to three counts of murder and seven of aggravated assault. Seven students were wounded in Wednesday's rampage at Pearl High School. A preliminary hearing was set for October 14.

District Attorney John Kitchens said he was disappointed he cannot seek the death penalty against Woodham. In Mississippi, that sentence applies only to murders committed in connection with another crime, such as robbery, burglary or rape. Woodham, if convicted, could receive a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.

"This may be the case that gets the law changed," Kitchens said.

Pearl memorial services

Wilson asked that a mental evaluation be ordered for his client, but City Judge Dewey Miller said he did not have that authority.

Assistant principal stopped fleeing teen

Authorities say Woodham, who was upset over a breakup with his girlfriend, first killed his mother, then tucked a rifle under his trench coat and headed for Pearl High School.

The girl he had dated, 16-year-old Christina Menefee, was the first to fall, witnesses said, and then he started shooting "anybody he could find."

Also killed in the rampage was 17-year-old Lydia Kaye Drew. Mary Woodham, a 50-year-old divorced receptionist, had apparently been slashed to death with a kitchen knife, police said. Three students remained hospitalized Thursday.

Woodham was fleeing from the high school when an assistant principal rammed his car into Woodham's mother's vehicle to stop him.

Police say boy admitted killings

Police said Woodham gave investigators a tearful statement admitting he had stabbed his mother to death, then used a rifle hidden under his coat in the high school shootings.

Woodham also gave a friend a letter in which he expressed anger, saying nobody cared about him, Pearl Police Chief Bill Slade said. The officer said the teen showed little remorse for the attack.
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"This was a disgruntled girlfriend-boyfriend thing," Slade said. "We talked to the youth, he gave us a statement and his manifesto was that he felt he had been wronged."

Kimberly Johnson, a student who witnessed the shootings, said Woodham walked into the high school's commons area wearing a long coat, pulled the gun from beneath it and began firing.

Teddy Bear in makeshift memorial

"He had the same expression the whole time, and he went up to Christy, Christina and he shot her. She died instantly," she said.

Woodham described as quiet, moody

A school yearbook photo shows a serious-looking Woodham with shoulder-length brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses. He was described as a quiet, well-behaved student.

Friends said he excelled in art, was moody and had been teased by fellow students, but was not a discipline problem. Slade agreed. "The teachers say he was a good kid," he said.

Students were to receive counseling Friday at the high school, which was to remain closed until Monday. Flowers and teddy bears were left out front to honor the shooting victims.

Correspondent Charles Zewe contributed to this report.


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