Killer at Thurston High – May 21st 1998 (20th anniversary)

Killer at Thurston High – May 21st 1998 (20th anniversary)

Kristin Kinkel, a 21-year-old woman holidaying in Hawaii received a series of telephone calls early one morning

that would transform her life into a ghastly horror movie – and tear her family apart forever.

She learned that both her parents had been shot dead in their family home in Springfield, Oregon and the day after, 21 May 1998, there had been a mass shooting at Thurston High, a local school. And to make matters horribly worse, it was believed that the gunman involved was 15-year-old Kip Kinkel – her younger brother. She would return home into a nightmare.

Kipland Kinkel was born on 30 August 1982, into a loving family that consisted of his parents Bill and Faith Kinkel, and sister Kristin, eventually living in a picturesque “A” frame house in the woods outside Springfield, Oregon.

Bill and Faith were both enthusiastic teachers who became increasingly concerned with Kip’s development. He was a troubled boy who had considerable difficulty in reading and writing from an early age, and also showed growing anti-social tendencies that they tried to correct over an extended period.

He was enrolled in special education classes, received treatment for anger management and underwent psychological therapy for depression. He displayed a growing interest in firearms and explosives

and in May 1998, purchased a stolen Beretta pistol from a friend that he stored in his school locker at Thurston High. This was discovered and he was suspended from school pending an expulsion investigation and was driven home by his father soon after.

Kip Kinkel had now reached the point of no return. Worried about the shame of expulsion, and his parents reaction to it, he loaded his Ruger.22 semi-automatic rifle and shot his father in the back of the head as he was drinking coffee at the kitchen counter, killing him instantly.

Dragging the body into the bathroom he then waited for his mother to return to the house.

Meeting her at the garage at around 6.00 pm, and telling her that he loved her, he then fired six times, killing her and then covering the body with a sheet on the garage floor.

Kinkel then spent the night in the house, with his parent’s bodies, before departing for Thurston High School on the morning of 21 May, driving his mothers Ford Explorer. He was armed with his rifle and a pistol and carried more than 1000 rounds of ammunition. He was picked up by the school’s CCTV system walking through the car park, with his weapons concealed under a long trench coat.

He headed for the school cafeteria, and then once inside fired his rifle randomly from the hip, blasting away at the large group of students who had gathered there before classes. 24 were wounded before Kinkel was overpowered and disarmed. Two of his victims died in the bloody rampage.

Soon after, the police drove to the Kinkel’s home and entered a house of horrors. The stereo system in the house was playing a soundtrack from “Romeo and Juliet” at high volume on continuous repeat. The bodies of Bill and Faith Kinkel were found soon after.

There was considerable debate as to whether Kinkel was mentally fit to stand trial, but he eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 111 years in prison with no parole. He is incarcerated in the Oregon State Correctional Institution.


By: R. Whitaker