Families of Covenant School Victims Applaud Move to Keep Nashville Shooter’s Manifesto Sealed

A Tennessee judge has ruled against releasing the journals written by the shooter who killed three 9-year-olds and three adults at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville in March of last year.

Parents of the victims asked the judge not to release the killer’s manifesto. 

Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles made the ruling on July 4, declaring that The Covenant School children and parents hold the copyright to any writings or other works created by shooter Audrey Hale, a former student and transgender who was killed by police. Hale’s parents inherited the works and then transferred ownership to the families. 

Myles said “the original writings, journals, art, photos and videos created by Hale” are subject to an exception to the Tennessee Public Records Act created by the federal Copyright Act. 

The ruling comes more than a year after several groups filed public records requests for documents seized by Metro Nashville Police during their investigation into the March 2023 shooting, wanting to expose the motivation behind the attack.

The group of Covenant parents opposed to the writings being released were allowed to intervene in the case and argued that the records should never become public. They said the release would be traumatic for the families and could inspire copycat attacks. 

As part of the effort to keep the records closed, Hale’s parents transferred ownership of Hale’s property to the parents’ group. Attorneys for the parents then argued they owned the copyright, further reason the records could not be released. 

Brent Leatherwood, an attorney for families of the victims, and father of students who attend Covenant, shared reaction to the judge’s ruling Friday morning. 

Here Are Their Responses:

The Family of Hallie Scruggs – “Far too often in our time, cruelty prevails over kindness; evil prevails over justice. Today was not one of those days. Instead, our hope is that the pain and suffering we have endured over the last year won’t continue forward to terrorize other families and other communities. Though we still grieve, we are thankful for this result.”

The Family of Mike Hill – “Our dad found such joy each day at school with those children. He loved serving them and he was always there to protect them. While we still feel the pain of his loss in our lives, this decision helps continue his legacy as our family, Covenant children, and other communities will be more protected because these ramblings will not be able to inspire future attacks from other individuals who are consumed by hate and perceived grievances.”

The Family of Cindy Peak – “The last year and a half without Cindy has been difficult. But today brings a measure of relief in our family. Denying the shooter some of the notoriety she sought by releasing her vile and unfiltered thoughts on the world is a result everyone should be thankful for. I only wish that others, whether seeking clicks or profit, had felt that way before revealing the depth of depravity that existed in the mind of a mass murderer on March 27.”

Dr. Erin Kinney, Mother of Will Kinney – “This opinion is an important first step to making sure the killer can’t hurt our babies anymore. The importance is even more clear due to the leaking of stolen police documents, which has violated our parental right to protect our traumatized and grieving children from material that could destroy their lives. We are more resolved than ever to fight to keep our children and everyone’s children safe from this murderer.”

The Family of Katherine Koonce – “The Court’s finding vindicates our family’s desire that public focus should be on the nobility of the loved ones who died tragically, and on the gracious support extended to households who suffered loss and trauma.”

The Family of Evelyn Dieckhaus – “No result will lessen the pain we carry each day. But this decision will ensure no additional burden is added to our family, and that has been a major objective for us. No one should have to live through the nightmare of losing a child to such senseless acts, and our hope is that by keeping the rest of this material from seeing the light of day, it will ensure no other family has to walk this path.”


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