Internet. He was also an avid visitor to chat rooms and devotee of email. The contents of his hard drive, which were seized by the police, suggest that he made a habit of visiting web sites that were unsavory by local community standards, including some that were pornographic. It is not clear to us how far his Internet habits deviate from that of ordinary teenage boys in this respect. However, his taste for violence—including sites that included how-to instructions for making weapons or rehearsals of violent attacks—fell outside mainstream norms. Certainly his own writings—composed for himself and for classroom assignments—began to reflect a fixation with violence.
Yet Carneal departs from the stereotype of the loner obsessed with computers in many respects. He had several friends from middle school and from band, including shooting victim Nicole Hadley, as well as friends from his neighborhood. These friends accompanied his family on occasional trips, and he slept over at the houses of the boys on occasion. At least in outward respects, and as far as his parents knew, he had friends. What he lacked was a crowd of his own. He was a fringe figure in a number of groups (e.g., band) but was central to none. He did not have very close friends, but it is not clear that this is atypical for 14-year-old boys. Nonetheless, Carneal was clearly searching for a crowd that would define him as more central and undertook various ventures (stealing, giving away pornography) in order to impress one group that seemed particularly attractive to him, the “Goths” or “freaks” as they are described by their detractors.
A few of these youth wore long black jackets and other trappings of Goth clothing and makeup. In this and other ways, the group attempted to stand out from the conventional crowd at Heath. Kelly Carneal described these students as purposefully antisocial: they realized how silly the social pecking order was in high school and refused to participate in it. They were known for rejecting what they regarded as the pious attitude of the prayer group, but they never did more than grumble about it. While this group was certainly noticed for its “statements,” school administrators did not regard them as threatening or seriously deviant.
Another way in which Carneal defies the loner stereotype is in his relations with girls. He had had a girlfriend and was friends with several female classmates. Prior to the shooting, he broke up with his girlfriend because he was interested in Nicole Hadley, one of the shooting victims. Freshman boys often find it difficult to locate themselves in the social landscape because they are the youngest in the school and cannot easily compete with older boys. Carneal’s slight stature did not improve his chances, but it is notable that he did indeed have something of a social life even though he was a freshman. Hadley took a particular interest in Carneal because she thought she could influence