(PONTIAC, Mich.) — Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing four of his classmates and wounding others in the 2021 Michigan school shooting.
Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last year to 24 charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death.
In handing out the sentence, Judge Kwamé Rowe emphasized the “extensive planning” of the school shooting and said Crumbley could have changed his mind at any point but didn’t.
“He continued to walk through the school, picking and choosing who was going to die,” Rowe said, calling the attack on the classmates an “execution” and “torture.”
Rowe previously ruled that the sentence of life without parole was appropriate despite Crumbley’s age at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors had said there were no plea deals, reductions or agreements regarding sentencing. The charges of first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death both carried a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years.
Crumbley addressed the court in brief remarks on Friday ahead of sentencing and told the judge he wants the victims to be happy and asked Rowe to impose whatever sentence they asked for.
“I am a really bad person, I have done terrible things that no one should ever do,” he said.
Four students — Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17 — were killed when Crumbley opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. Six students and a teacher were wounded in the shooting rampage.
The families of victims and survivors of the shooting provided emotional impact statements ahead of the sentencing on Friday. Parents recalled the agony of waiting to hear what happened to their children that day, only to then learn that they were killed.
In tears, Buck Myre, father of victim Tate Myre, remembered how his wife put her head in her hands and cried, “Not my baby boy,” and described the awful toll the shooting has taken on his family ever since.
“For the past two years, our family has been navigating our way through complete hell,” he said.
Addressing Crumbley, Buck Myre said: “I understand from journal entries, this was the desired outcome — for us to feel the pain that you had. I will tell you this: We are miserable. We miss Tate. Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed, ever.”
“As we fight and claw our way through this journey, we realize that we are completely miserable, and there does not appear to be a way out. So to this day, you were winning,” he continued. “But today is a day where the tides change. Today, we are going to take hours back. We’re all cried out. We’re all tired out. “
Buck Myre said that they are working to find a way to forgive Crumbley, his parents and the school.
“What other options do we have? Be miserable for the rest of our lives and rob our family of normalcy?” he said. “We want you to spend the rest of your life rotting in your cell. What you stole from us is not replaceable. But what we won’t let you steal from us is a life of normalcy and we’ll find a way to get there through forgiveness and through putting good into this world.”
Madisyn’s mother, Nicole Beausoleil, said she wanted her daughter to be remembered by her name — and not as a shooting victim.
“Madisyn lives in all of us. Her legacy remains. Her kindness continues, now and forever,” Beausoleil said. “She will always be the heartbeat of our family.”
She refused to say the shooter’s name, calling him “trash” and “waste,” and asked the judge to give him the same life sentence that she has received — one “that I cannot escape from.”
“Day by day passes, I hope his life seems more meaningless, lost and forgotten,” she said.
The father of Hana St. Juliana asked for life without parole for the shooter’s “heinous crime.”
“If it were your child who was killed in such a cowardly manner, would you be satisfied that justice was served with anything less than him spending the rest of his life in prison?” Steve St. Juliana asked the court.
In the wake of his daughter’s murder, he said he is a “shell of the person I used to be.”
“A few paragraphs of words describing Hana can in no way fully capture her truly beautiful, caring soul nor impart her unlimited potential,” he said. “Hana was an absolutely beautiful and thoughtful person.”
Craig Shilling spoke while wearing a sweatshirt adorned with a photo of his son, Justin Shilling.
“One could venture to say that there are no words that can accurately describe the pain that we feel on a daily basis,” he said. “I have PTSD and struggle most days even to get out of bed.”
He said he still finds himself waiting for his son to come home each day.
“Never in a million years did I think that something like this was going to happen to me,” he said. “There’s absolutely no way you can prepare yourself for this level of pain.”
He said he believes the punishment should be the death penalty, which is banned in Michigan. In lieu of that, he asked the judge to “lock this son of a bitch up for the rest of his pathetic life.”
“His blatant lack of human decency and disturbing thoughts on life in general do not in any way warrant a second chance,” he said. “My son doesn’t get a second chance and neither should he.”
Justin Shilling’s mother, Jill Soave, also asked the judge to sentence the shooter to life without the possibility of parole.
“Your Honor, it’s almost impossible to find the human words to describe my grief, pain, trauma and rage,” she said. “The manner in which my son Justin was so cold-heartedly, methodically executed shows clearly the pure evil and malice of the shooter.”
She recounted how her son spent his last moments protecting shooting survivor Keegan Gregory and saved six more lives through organ donation.
“His future was so bright and full of possibilities,” she said. “He will always be my little sweetheart.”
Keegan Gregory told the court about the moments he and Justin Shilling were trapped in a bathroom with the shooter.
“We were stuck, helpless and cornered with no defense,” he said. “It was and always will be the most terrifying moment of my life — being cornered with no option but to run out of the bathroom as fast as I could, hoping to live.”
He said he was in “absolute disbelief and shock” when Justin Shilling was shot, and continues to feel the guilt of surviving.
“I know that if it wasn’t Justin’s life that was taken, it could have been mine, and I’m forever grateful to him for that,” he said. “I almost feel guilty about being alive, knowing that Justin’s family is living in grief.”
“That guilt is now compounded with sadness, fear, anxiety and trauma,” he said, describing how he continues to deal with flashbacks, fear and paranoia and has trouble trusting people.
He asked for a sentence “that makes sure he won’t ever hurt anyone again,” though hoped that Crumbley receives counseling to understand the impact of his actions.
Nearly 30 victims addressed the court on Friday. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said more considered speaking but decided they were unable to, “which is further evidence of the trauma.”
McDonald urged the judge to “give them the justice they deserve” and sentence Crumbley to life without parole.
Deborah McKelvy, Crumbley’s court-appointed guardian, wanted to remind the court that the defendant was 15 at the time of the shooting and said he is not the same person that he was then.
“His life is salvageable, his life is rehabilitable,” McKelvy said while arguing that life without parole is not the appropriate sentence.
Amy Hopp, one of Crumbley’s defense attorneys, asked the judge to consider a term of years — which she said could potentially see him released by his late 70s — as opposed to life without parole.
“Even a term of years is a very, very lengthy sentence, and may very well be a life sentence. But what it does do is give Ethan the opportunity to demonstrate to everyone that he can be rehabilitated, that he is redeemable, that he can make amends and contribute in a positive way to society upon his release,” Hopp said.
Earlier this year, during a hearing to determine whether Crumbley could be eligible for life in prison without parole, Rowe highlighted evidence against the teen in which he displayed violence, including Crumbley saying he felt something “between good and pleasurable” when he tortured a baby bird.
“There is other disturbing evidence but it is clear to this court that the defendant had an obsession with violence before the shooting,” Rowe said.
Rowe questioned the possibility that Crumbley could be rehabilitated in jail.
“The evidence does not demonstrate to this court that he wants to change,” he said.
“The defendant continues to be obsessed with violence and could not stop his violence in jail,” Rowe added.
The teen’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly failing to recognize warning signs about their son in the months before the shooting.
Both parents have pleaded not guilty and their trial is set to begin on Jan. 23.
During his plea hearing in October 2022, Crumbley admitted in court that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun and confirmed he gave his father money for the gun and that the semi-automatic handgun wasn’t kept in a locked safe.
Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Crumbley researching ammunition in class; school officials contacted his parents but they didn’t respond, according to prosecutors. His mother texted her son, writing, “lol, I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught,” according to prosecutors.
Hours before the shooting, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on his desk that was “a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, ‘The thoughts won’t stop, help me.’ In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words above that bullet, ‘Blood everywhere."”
Crumbley’s parents were called to the school over the incident, saying they’d get their son counseling but did not take him home.
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