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Kenneth S. BARTLEY Jr.





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Juvenile (14) - School shooting
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 8, 2005
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1991
Victim profile: Ken Bruce, 48 (assistant principal)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22-caliber handgun)
Location: Campbell County, Tennessee, USA
Status: Sentenced to 45 years in prison on April 10, 2007
photo gallery

On November 8, 2005, 15-year old student Kenneth Bartley Jr. had been confronted by principal Gary Seale on whether he carried a firearm on school campus. He allegedly pulled the .22-caliber handgun under a napkin and stated, "Yes, it's real. I'll show you. I never liked you anyways," and proceeded to open fire on assistant principal Ken Bruce and Gary Seale and assistant principal Jim Pierce, who were present in the room. Ken Bruce had died of sustained critical injuries.

On April 10, 2007, Kenneth Bartley Jr. plead guilty to a single count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.


Judge refuses to overturn Kenneth Bartley plea deal

By Robin Murdoch -


A Campbell County teen currently serving time for a deadly school shooting won't get a new trial, at least for now.

Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood on Monday rejected 15-year old Kenneth Bartley's request to withdraw his April guilty plea.

It happened in the middle of jury selection for his trial.

Assistant Principal Ken Bruce died in that November 2005 shooting.

Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were seriously injured.

When the Judge Blackwood announced his decision, the courtroom filled with applause.

It was a bittersweet victory for the victims and disappointment for the defense.

Bartley testified, "First degree murder, first degree felony murder, two first degree attempted murders."'

On Monday, Bartley rattled off the charges he originally faced in a Campbell County courtroom.

According to his new defense attorney, Bruce Poston, the teen didn't completely understand them before taking the offer.

Poston says, "On March 25th you turned down a deal that was 25 years for second degree murder and 10 years and 10 years for attempted second degree murder."

Bartley replied, "Yes sir."

"On April 10th you said I'll take the deal. Why?," asked Poston.

Bartley answered, "I was scared cause I was looking at two life sentences."

Poston says his client also didn't get to talk about the offer with his parents until the damage was already done. He insists there was no parental input until it was too late.

Rita Vannoy, Bartley's mother agreed. She's one of the reasons there's a motion to withdraw the plea.

Vannoy adds, "I didn't understand what was going on. I knew it wasn't what we agreed to. We agreed to have a trial."

Mike Hatmaker, Bartley's former attorney who helped broker the plea deal testified the 15-year old knew what he was getting into.

"He wanted to do this. Absolutely," says Hatmaker.

District Attorney General Paul Phillips asked during Monday's proceeding, "Any question in your mind?"

"No," replied Hatmaker.

In the end, the Judge Blackwood sided with the state ruling Bartley wasn't pressured to take the deal.

Judge Blackwood also pointed out he rarely accepts pleas on the same day of trial. Monday's hearing reinforces why.

Poston adds, " I'm disappointed in the decision. I'm not surprised. Half way through what the judge was saying I leaned over to Kenneth and said we lost but we have a good record. You could see it coming."

"We came here at peace and we're leaving here at peace. You know there are no winners here. My heart breaks for their family," adds Jo Bruce, Widow.

Bartley is serving a 45 year sentence.

It is 6 years fewer than if convicted of first degree murder.


Bartley Trying to Withdraw Guilty Plea

May 10, 2007

(WVLT) - The teenager who pleaded guilty in the Campbell County School Shooting is apparently trying to withdraw his guilty plea.

The LaFollette Press is reporting Kenneth Bartley, Junior, is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea for the shooting at Campbell County High School in November 2005.

Assistant principal Ken Bruce died in that shooting.

Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were hurt.

According to this morning's LaFollette Press, Bartley's attorney Michael Hatmaker filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea and enter a plea of not guilty and also asks for a trial date to be set.

The plea deal came as a shock to some people on the first day of jury selection for Bartley's trial last month.

Under the deal, Bartley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.


Bartley victims: 'We forgive him' / Bartley pleads guilty

By Jamie Satterfield -

April 10, 2007

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — A troubled teen who once turned a high school into a shooting gallery today turned a judge's chambers into a confessional.

"He wished he hadn't done it, and he wished he could take it all back," Assistant Principal Jim Pierce said in recounting Kenneth Bartley's apology given in the judge's chambers shortly before his plea deal was announced in the courtroom.

In the agreement, Bartley, 15, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Campbell County Comprehensive High School Assistant Principal Ken Bruce, 48, on Nov. 8, 2005.

He received 25 years in prison.

The lanky bespectacled teen also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted second-degree murder in the shootings of Pierce and Principal Gary Seale. He received two 10-year sentences for those shootings.

Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood approved the sentences and ended the trial after struggling a half-day with jury selection.

Mike Hatmaker, Bartley's attorney, said after the plea, "It was the hardest case I've ever been involved in."

He said that Bartley wanted to apologize in private to Jo Bruce, widow of Ken Bruce, Seale and Pierce.

"He said that he didn't mean to do what he did," Hatmaker said.

Jo Bruce said she did not want to discuss what went on in the closed-door meeting with Bartley.

"I did tell him that I know Ken forgave him," Bruce said.

Pierce said that he accepted Bartley's apology.

"We told him we forgive him ? our lives will never be the same."

The announcement followed a flurry of meetings this afternoon among Bartley, Hatmaker, prosecutor Paul Phillips, the victims and victims' families.

Hatmaker and Bartley then met privately.

Hatmaker approached Phillips after that conference and said that Bartley wanted to meet with the victims.

"He wants to apologize," Hatmaker told Phillips.

After that meeting, Blackwood announced the plea agreement to the courtroom.

Bartley must serve 85 percent of the 25-year sentence and 20 percent of each of the 10-year sentences. That's about 25 years.

He was facing a minimum 51-year sentence if he had been convicted of first-degree murder in the slaying of Bruce at the rural high school about 35 miles north of Koxville.

Earlier today, Blackwood dismissed 34 potential jurors from a panel of 53 because they said they had opinions about the case that weren't likely to change.

One after another, the jurors told the judge they had made up their minds about Bartley's actions.

The court had summoned 135 potential jurors, more than double the normal jury pool.

A Campbell County grand jury had returned the indictment against Bartley in February. TBI Agent Steve Vinsant was the lead investigator in the prosecution.

Phillips, whose district includes Campbell County, had sought the indictment after a judge ruled Bartley should be tried as an adult.

The grand jury charged Bartley with first-degree murder in Bruce's death and two counts of attempted first-degree murder for the nonfatal shootings of Seale and Pierce.

The teenager also was charged in the indictment with bringing a gun onto school grounds and possession of Xanax, a prescription sedative, with the intent to distribute the pills.

Special Juvenile Court Judge Michael Davis in February rejected the notion of a troubled young man in need of treatment and instead deemed Bartley a threat to the public.

"We see Mr. Bartley has a significant delinquent record," Davis said in ruling. "There's an attack on his mother and father, an attack on a neighbor, an attack on a youth who had not paid for drugs he bought from Mr. Bartley and, more recently, an assault at Mountain View (Youth Development Center)."

Davis said the risk to the public is greater than the odds that another stint in the juvenile court system will turn the teenager a productive citizen. With that in mind, Davis ordered Bartley to stand trial as an adult.

Davis' ruling came after more than two days of testimony, some of which was shielded from public view.

According to testimony, Bartley brought a gun to school that day to trade for OxyContin, a powerful painkiller. Campbell County Sheriff's Department Deputy Darrell Mongar has testified that Bartley had taken two pills of Xanax, a prescription sedative, before the shooting and had 10 more in his pocket.

Pierce got a tip that Bartley was armed and summoned the then 14-year-old freshman to his office, where Seale and Bruce joined him.

Pierce testified that Bartley brandished an unloaded gun when Pierce ordered him to turn over the contents of his pocket but grew agitated when Seale also reached for the weapon.

When Seale asked Bartley if the gun was real, Pierce said Bartley responded: "I'll show you. I never liked you anyway."

Bartley then withdrew an ammunition clip from his other pocket, loaded it into the gun and opened fire, Pierce and Seale have testified.

Davis' decision to send the boy to the adult court system did not turn on Bartley's actions that day, however. Instead, the real debate was over Bartley's mental state and the likelihood that he could be rehabilitated within the juvenile court system.

Phillips argued that the juvenile system had tried and failed, primarily because of Bartley's own resistance.

In January, officials at the Mountain View Youth Development Center found a homemade knife, known as a "shank," in Bartley's room, Phillips said.

Bartley boasted "that he bucked the system" and had made threats against staff, the prosecutor alleged. Phillips said the teenager also has proved manipulative.

"He said, 'Oh, I just did that to be thrown out of that unit,' " Phillips said.

Bartley had a chance at treatment at Kingswood Academy, where he had been sent before the fatal shooting.

"He told the folks at Kingswood ... he would do whatever necessary including violence to leave this institution," Phillips said. "He's the one that escaped from Kingswood."

Hatmaker countered that Phillips could only produce one witness — Dr. Vance Sherwood — to support the theory that Bartley was a dangerous offender unlikely to change.

Hatmaker questioned the validity of that assessment, noting that Sherwood characterized Bartley "as a psychopath, a diagnosis not even recognized by the DSM," referring to the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" published by the American Psychiatric Association.

"If you want to take (Sherwood's) word, then you transfer him," Hatmaker said. "If you don't want to transfer him, you have the testimony of seven people, five of whom were called by the state, (who all say) he's treatable as a juvenile. That's the question. Is he treatable as a juvenile? Yes, he is, overwhelmingly. Treat him as a juvenile."

Davis' ruling in February put the fatal school shooting case right back where it was just a few months ago. Bartley had agreed to have his case handled in adult court but backed out when community members became upset over the possibility of a plea deal.


Bartley to be tried as adult

By Jamie Satterfield -

February 2, 2007

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — A special Juvenile Court judge ruled today that accused school shooter Kenneth Bartley should be tried as an adult.

Morgan County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Davis, specially assigned to the case, said that authorities had tried and failed to rehabilitate the troubled teenager.

"Mr. Bartley himself has avoided treatment efforts," Davis said.

Davis ruled that Bartley, now 15, is a danger to the community and should face the adult system on charges that include first-degree murder.

District Attorney General Paul Phillips said he will present the case to a Campbell County grand jury on Monday for consideration of charges.

Davis set bail for Bartley at $850,000, a figure defense attorney Mike Hatmaker indicated he likely could not post.

Earlier this week, Davis heard testimony from at least three mental-health professionals on Bartley’s state of mind.

Davis on Tuesday suspended the hearing until today in order to hear from a fourth who will be busy until in a hearing in the case of convicted Knox County killer Christa Gail Pike.

The public has been barred from the courtroom during the mental-health testimony because of privacy laws.

But Hatmaker acknowledged Tuesday that, under juvenile law, a decision on whether Bartley should be tried as an adult turns not on what the teenager did but what’s going on in his head.

"It really boils down to two factors," Hatmaker said.

One, is there probable cause to believe that it was Bartley who opened fire in a Campbell County Comprehensive High School office Nov. 8, 2005, killing Assistant Principal Ken Bruce and wounding Assistant Principal Jim Pierce and Principal Gary Seale?

On that factor, there is no dispute between Hatmaker and Campbell County District Attorney General Paul Phillips.

"He (Bartley) did it," Hatmaker said.

Two, is the now 15-year-old Bartley suffering from a mental illness that makes him a danger to the public and for which only treatment in a mental-health facility will suffice?

On that factor, there is no agreement between the two.

"Is he amenable to treatment?" Hatmaker asked in rhetorical fashion. "That’s the issue."

The defense attorney has sent at least two mental-health experts to the witness stand in Campbell County Juvenile Court this week to back up his assertion that Bartley should remain in the juvenile court system. Friday’s witness, Knoxville psychologist Diana McCoy, also is expected to testify on behalf of Bartley.

The state has at least one expert on its side — Dr. Vance R. Sherwood. The East Tennessee psychologist has authored books on adolescent mental woes delving into such topics as "conduct disorder" and how to best treat "out of control" teenagers.

The stakes are high. If Bartley is ordered to stand trial as an adult, he faces a minimum 51-year prison term if convicted of the first-degree murder of Bruce. If convicted in Juvenile Court and not committed to a mental-health institution, he could be held only until age 19. Even if he were committed, the teenager would be freed when clinicians deem him no longer a threat.

Bruce’s widow, Jo Bruce, and his sons, Chris Bruce, 26, and Patrick Bruce, 22, have been in court the past two days awaiting a decision on Bartley’s fate.

She isn’t ready to define justice for the Bruce family. But she believes the system will deliver it.

"We would have liked not to have seen another delay, but we understand the need for it," Jo Bruce said Tuesday. "We understand the process. I’m here to wait and see. We made it through that Nov. 8, 2005. We can certainly make it through this. We have faith in the process."


Bartley to face seven counts

Suspect in school shooting, 14, charged with killing educator

By Jamie Satterfield -

June 8, 2006

A grand jury on Wednesday returned a seven-count indictment against a 14-year-old boy ordered to stand trial as an adult in the slaying of a Campbell County Comprehensive High School administrator.

A Campbell County grand jury leveled charges, including first-degree murder, against Kenneth S. Bartley, who is accused of opening fire in the office of the school where he was a student in November when confronted over an accusation he was armed with a gun.

Bartley is charged with killing Campbell County High Assistant Principal Ken Bruce and wounding Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce.

The indictment charges Bartley with the premeditated killing of Bruce as well as an alternative count of felony murder in which the teenager is accused of killing Bruce during the attempted murders of Seale and Pierce.

The boy could be convicted of both but punished for only one.

Essentially, the two murder charges present alternative versions of the theory behind the killing. One provides a backstop for the other since both carry the same punishment.

For instance, if jurors were not convinced that Bartley intended to kill Bruce, prosecutors could argue that the teenager still rated a murder conviction because Bruce wound up a victim of Bartley's attack on Seale and Pierce.

District Attorney General Paul Phillips said Wednesday that he would not seek a sentence of life without parole in the case if Bartley is convicted of either murder charge.

"In our opinion, the punishment that is appropriate in this case would be life," Phillips said.

Under state law, a convicted killer sentenced to life with the possibility of parole must serve 51 years before he or she is eligible for release.

Because Bartley is not an adult, state law bars the imposition of the death penalty.

He was ordered to stand trial as an adult earlier this year after his defense attorney, Mike Hatmaker, agreed to waive a hearing on the issue. That decision, which allowed Hatmaker to avoid a public airing of the evidence against the boy, sent the case to a Campbell County grand jury.

The grand jury on Wednesday heard from six witnesses, including Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Steve Vinsant, Pierce, Seale and Bruce's wife, Jo Bruce.

In addition to the two murder charges, the panel indicted Bartley on two counts of attempted murder with Pierce and Seale as the victims, carrying a weapon onto school property and possession of Valium with the intent to sell the prescription sedative or distribute it.

The Valium was allegedly found in Bartley's possession after the shooting.

Bartley, who is being held in the Richard Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knoxville pending trial, is expected to be arraigned Friday. Phillips and Hatmaker will meet again in a Campbell County courtroom on July 14 for the setting of a trial date.

Authorities have said the fatal school shooting that rocked this tight-knit community occurred after school officials summoned Bartley to the office to check out a tip that he was armed.


Sheriff: student shoots 3; 1 dead

Don Jacobs and Lola - Alapo -

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

JACKSBORO, Tenn. - A 15-year-old Campbell County high school freshman allegedly killed one administrator and seriously wounded two others Tuesday when confronted by educators checking a report the boy was armed, authorities said.

Kenny Bartley Jr., a freshman at the school, allegedly shot Assistant Principal Ken Bruce in the chest area, said Campbell County Sheriff Ron McClellan. Bruce, a retired military man, was transported to St. Mary's Hospital in LaFollette where he was pronounced dead.

Campbell County Comprehensive High School Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce were flown by medical helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

Seale, suffering a bullet wound to the groin area, was listed in serious condition. Pierce was shot in the arm, but the round then entered his lung. He was listed in critical condition.

Bartley was being held Tuesday night in the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center in Knoxville, juvenile officials said. McClellan said he expects formal criminal charges to be filed today against the teen.

"We'll make a determination on charges later, after we've gathered all the statements and the evidence," said Campbell County Chief Deputy Charles Scott.

Scott said the 2:11 p.m. shooting occurred after school administrators were tipped that Bartley had a handgun. The boy was removed from his class and taken to the office area away from other students.

"When they confronted him, I guess he just panicked," Scott said.

Scott described Bartley's gun as a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol, about the size of a Saturday night special that could fit in the palm of an adult's hand.

McClellan said Bartley was disarmed in the office area before he could endanger other students.

"The gun was wrested away from this individual by another teacher," the sheriff said.

Sometime during the struggle, McClellan said, a bullet grazed Bartley's right hand, causing a bleeding wound. The teen was treated at the same hospital in LaFollette where Bruce died.

"He didn't show any remorse to me," the sheriff said. "He was pretty calm."

McClellan said he sat with Bruce as the man in his late 40s died at the hospital. McClellan said he spoke with Seale before the principal was removed from the school.

"I talked to Mr. Seale in the office," he said. "He was in quite a bit of pain."

Seale, in his early 50s, is in his second year as principal of the high school. Prior to that, Seale was principal of the LaFollette Middle School. Seale's son is a student at the high school.

Pierce is also in his early 50s and served as athletic director for the high school.

The three victims were married and had children. Their families asked the media to leave them alone Tuesday night.

The sheriff said he expected investigators to search Bartley's residence outside LaFollette sometime Tuesday night. Bartley's father, Kenny Bartley, owns Kenny's Pioneer, a convenience store in LaFollette, the sheriff said.

The suspect's father and an attorney met briefly with the boy Tuesday evening, according to McClellan.

Scott said K-9 dogs from law enforcement agencies across the area were called in to search the high school after the 1,400 students got out.

"After we've cleared the building, we'll have K-9s go through and clear the school of any weapons or narcotics," Scott said.

McClellan said Tuesday night he still didn't "know what all happened during the shooting" because his investigators were still piecing together evidence.

Agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are assisting in the investigation and have set up a mobile crime lab at the high school to help process evidence, authorities said.

The school does not have metal detectors but does have a security officer employed by the board of education, McClellan said.

School officials said the building is equipped with surveillance cameras. Authorities, however, have not reviewed the recordings to determine if the cameras captured anything to aid the probe or shed light on how the shooting occurred.

The sheriff said he couldn't address information that Bartley had taken the gun to school in hopes of trading it for two OxyContin pills.

"I've heard all kinds of things, but I can't confirm that right now without talking to my investigators," McClellan said.

One of the lead investigators on the case, the sheriff said, is his daughter, Amy Hamac. Pierce had been Hamac's teacher at Campbell County Comprehensive High School, and her daughter is a student at the school.

"I just told her to stay focused and to keep the emotional stuff out of it," McClellan said.

Those close relationships are indicative of how deeply the community will feel the pain from the shooting, residents said.

"It affects the whole community because the parents know the teachers and now the teachers know our kids," said Ida Monday, who graduated in 1979 from the high school.

School officials opted to cancel classes for the rest of the week at Campbell County Comprehensive High School, said Director of Schools Dr. Judy Blevins.

Board of Education Chairwoman Mary Michelle Gillum said that by closing the high school for three days, administrators will have more time to gather a team of grief counselors to greet students next week.

McClellan praised the way school officials handled the situation after the shooting erupted.

"I applaud the school's actions today," the sheriff said.

When the shooting ended, a school administrator ordered the school locked down, which prohibited students from leaving their classes.

"That was the proper and professional thing to do, lock the school down," McClellan said.

Students said Seale, probably after being shot, came on the school intercom and ordered the lockdown.



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