Bartley Gets 45 Years for School Shooting in Plea Deal

By: Kim Bedford
By: Kim Bedford

Jacksboro, Campbell County (WVLT) - Kenny Bartley junior pleads guilty to the high school shooting and the death of Ken Bruce.

Jury selection ran all morning, so no one saw this one coming.

Around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Kenny Bartley pleaded guilty to one count of second degree murder and 2 counts of attempted second degree murder.

The 15-year-old was sentenced to 45 years in prison and for the first time in more than a year the Bruce family is getting some closure.

"We did the right thing. We feel this will help our community start to heal," says Jo Bruce, widow of slain Assistant Principal Ken Bruce.

Tears flowed through the Bruce family as Kenny Bartley pleaded guilty to the murder of Campbell County High School Assistant Principal Ken Bruce.

"I think Ken would say job well done. He would say, 'you know what? This little community needs to get back to its job of being a happy little community,'" Jo Bruce clutched her husband's rosary and school badge, the badge he was wearing the day he was shot. "It's probably one of the best pictures ever of him. I told Mr. Seale, I went and I said, you may have been in charge, but Ken was cuter."

Principal Gary Seale and Assistant Principal Jim Pierce sat in on the plea deal Tuesday.

"We left it to the court, and we all talked, the families talked, we talked with them and we left it to our representation to make the decision," says Jim Pierce.

For the first time ever, Pierce says Bartley apologized to everyone.

"Just let him talk to us, tell us what he had to say to us. Just an emotional apology and he wished he hadn't have done it and wished that he could take it all back," Pierce says.

So was the apology accepted?

"We told him we forgave him. Everybody's life has changed and will never be the same, regardless," Pierce says.

"I did tell Kenny that I know Ken forgave him and I've said that all along," Jo Bruce says.

So Bartley will spend the next 45 years in prison, how will life change for the Bruce family?

"We're going to miss Ken every single day, just as we always have and we'll continue our work to make sure that other communities learn from what happened here," Jo Bruce says.

Jo says the trial may be over, her husband's memory will live on throughout Campbell County forever. "In the end it doesn't matter, really. None of this matters, because we know what Ken Bruce was and we know he's okay."

Jo tells WVLT this will also help her two sons move on.

Kenny Bartley's mother and father did not want to comment.

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  • by Kenneth'sFriend Location: Knoxville, Tn on May 14, 2007 at 12:34 AM
    He will be paroled today Sue.
  • by Pam Location: Chicago on Apr 13, 2007 at 07:56 PM
    Once again a child is thrown to the lions. He will be destroyed one day at a time as an adult prisoner. The justice system has made sure of that. I am a member of Justice for Juveniles, an Internet based child advocacy group that works toward changing legislation adjudicating children as adults. We have been keeping up with child since the day this tragic event happened. We have written letters to the judge, prosecutor, newspapers and to Kenneth, our members have visited with him. We will be with him for years to come. We will know what happens to him. We will hear and read his anguish. We will know about his suffering first hand. In fact, we already know what will happen to this child because the same lack of treatment, despair, abuse, suffering, starvation, punishment in the "hole", abandonment by friends and family, will befall this child as it has befallen all the others we care about. He will be afraid to complain about anything, even sexual abuse for fear of retaliation by the "system". The inhumanity to man and now child is all too familiar to our dedicated, caring group of advocates and we already know what this sentence means for this child. It is a living death sentence. And we will be there to witness it first hand. We will see the damage first hand, every day. But the so called "Christian" folks who believe that a slow, tortorous death of a child is just, will go about their merry way, bathing themselves in their self-righteous indignation defending what they have done. But they won't write or send money at Christmastime or send the child a book, or pay for a $20 phone call once a week or basically acknowledge that this child even exists, as the Bible instructs them to do. If they did, they may find that this is a child, not a monster and that would be very disruptive to their judgmental ways. Kennety is no longer a child of God, he is garbage, or better yet, meat for the lions. Put that in the collection plate next Sunday. God can feast on that.
  • by gayla Location: jacksboro on Apr 10, 2007 at 09:48 PM
    I think they should not have had a plea deal,so that everything could have come out in court. I'm very sorry for kenny and will pray that he will be safe in prison
  • by barb Location: knoxville on Apr 10, 2007 at 09:35 PM
    My prayers go out to both of these families for their losses. Thank you Kim for the great coverage of this story.
  • by Susan Location: Illinois on Apr 10, 2007 at 06:16 PM
    Adults don't get this severe of a sentence. This is very sad. This child needs help, not a long prison sentence!!!
  • by Lothar Location: Stinking Creek on Apr 10, 2007 at 04:19 PM
    Awfully light sentence for murder and two attempted murders.
  • by Megan Location: Jacksboro on Apr 10, 2007 at 04:10 PM
    I'm glad Mr. Seale and Mr. Pierce do not have to go through a lengthy trial. This whole situation has been very trying for them. However, I do not think 45 years is a long enough sentence for the damage that he created.
  • by Sue Location: Knoxville on Apr 10, 2007 at 03:25 PM
    Does this sentence mean that he will be paroled in a few years or at the age of 18?


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