Two years after the massacre, teenager Ethan Crumbley was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering four students at Oxford High School in Michigan and injuring seven others in a rampage he carried out with a gun that his parents had bought him as an early Christmas present.
Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame Rowe noted that Crumbley himself was not asking for a term of years, even though his lawyers did.
Rowe noted Crumbley’s extensive planning and his stated desire for notoriety. He said Crumbley had numerous opportunities to change course and had, in effect, executed classmates and said the court “cannot ignore that.”
Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty to all his crimes last year, admitting he meant to cause panic and fear when he emerged from a bathroom and opened fire on November 30, 2021, showing no emotion as he fired shots through the hallways.
His actions would claim the lives of 16-year-old Tate Myre; 17-year-olds Madisyn Baldwin and Justin Shilling; and 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana. Six students and a teacher were also injured.
The sentence was handed down after an emotional day of gut-wrenching victim impact statements, from parents who both called for forgiveness — and vengeance.
“I going to ask you to lock this son of a bitch up for the rest of his pathetic life.” Craig Shilling, whose son Justin was murdered in a school bathroom, implored the judge. “My son doesn’t get a second chance, and neither should he.”
Buck Myre, whose son Tate was also killed in the massacre, addressed the killer.
“We’re all cried out … We’re the prisoner, not you,” said Myre, who also told the shooter: “Believe me, we will never forget about you — ever.”
Still, the grieving father said through tears: “We need to find a way to find forgiveness — forgiveness to you, forgiveness to your parents, forgiveness to the school, what other choice do we have?”
Crumbley, who looked down during most of the hearing, showed no emotion about the act of terror he methodically planned and detailed in his journal.
“I will cause the largest school shooting in the state … I will surrender to the police. I wish to hear the screams of the children as I shoot them,” Crumbley wrote in the days before the shooting, noting: “All I need is my 9mm pistol, which I’m currently begging my dad for.”
Four days before the rampage, Crumbley’s dad took him on a Black Friday shopping trip and bought him a 9 mm pistol, using his son’s money to pay for it.
“I got my gun. It’s an SP2022 SIG Sauer 9mm,” Crumbley wrote in his journal on the eve of the tragedy, adding: “The shooting is tomorrow, I have access to the gun and ammo … the first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer like me.”
In pushing for the harshest punishment, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald argued Crumbley didn’t just snap and shoot up his school, but rather planned it ahead of time, wrote about it, texted about it, made a manifesto about it — and made sure he would stay alive so he could witness the suffering.
Moreover, the prosecutor argued, Crumbley killed victims he didn’t even know, including Madisyn, who was shot at point-blank range as she crouched on the ground, curled into a ball with her hands over her head.
The defense portrayed Crumbley as a lost and severely depressed teenager who was spiraling out of control in the months before the shooting, hallucinating and contemplating suicide, begging for help but not getting any — as he expressed in his journal and texts.
“I have fully mentally lost it after years of fighting my dark side. My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist,” Crumbley wrote in his journal.
Even on the day of the shooting, his lawyer has argued, Crumbley was pleading for help, but nobody listened.
Specifically, she has stressed, on the morning of the shooting, Crumbley’s parents were summoned to the school over a violent drawing he had made on his math worksheet that included a gun, a bleeding body, and the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
His parents, however, told school officials they had to return to their jobs, asked if Crumbley could be returned to class, and promised to get him help in the coming days. They never disclosed that the dad had bought Crumbley a gun just days earlier.
The counselor, fearing the student was suicidal, decided to let Crumbley stay in school.
The teenager’s backpack, which police say contained the gun, was never checked.
Two hours later, he came out of the bathroom and opened fire.
Crumbley’s parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are charged with involuntary manslaughter. The prosecution argues the parents ignored a troubled son who was spiraling out of control, and bought him a gun instead of getting him help. Prosecutors also argue the Crumbleys, more than anyone else, could have prevented the shooting had they disclosed their son had access to a gun when given the chance.
The Crumbleys, who are the first parents in America to be charged in a mass school shooting, have been jailed since the shooting on $500,000 bonds each, are scheduled to go to trial in January.
Detroit Free Press