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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