Oakland County, Michigan
The teenager who killed four students and injured seven others at a Michigan high school last year pleaded guilty to all charges against him Monday in what prosecutors called a landmark case.
Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder resulting in death and 19 other charges stemming from the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School.
“We are not aware of another case anywhere in the country where a mass shooter has been convicted of terrorism on state charges,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald. “No one has been convicted of similar crimes under these circumstances, such targeted violence.”
Dressed in an orange jumpsuit with a medical mask in Oakland County court on Monday, the 16-year-old answered “yes” to the question of whether he killed each of the victims — all of whom he recognized by name.
The victim’s mother, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, shook and cried as soon as she said her daughter’s name and Crumbley admitted killing her. Also killed was 16-year-old Tate Myer. Hana St. Juliana, 14; Justin Schilling, 17.
On the day of the mass shooting, Crumbley confirmed that he got the gun from an unlocked container at his home, hid it in his backpack, took it out of the bag in the bathroom and fired at his classmates.
Attorney Wayne Johnson, who represents some of the victims’ families, told CNN it was a sad, sad and difficult day for the parents, but Crumbley’s testimony will help them in their civil case against the shooter, his parents and the school district.
The teenager faces life in prison without parole in many cases. The parents, who have pleaded not guilty to related charges, will go on trial in January.
Since November’s Oxford High School tragedy, there have been more than 70 school shootings across the country.
After Monday’s hearing — amid another campus shooting in St. Louis — the top prosecutor in the Oxford High School case was asked how his office’s experience in the Crumbley lawsuit could inform the nation’s efforts to curb gun violence.
“It’s not just about sharing with other departments. Gun violence is preventable, that’s what I’ve learned. “It doesn’t surprise me that there’s another school shooting — it’s horrible,” said Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald.
“We need to keep the public and inform the public … how to prevent gun violence. It is preventable and we should never let it become something we have to live with.”
Several families of victims and survivors attended the court hearing Crumbley’s guilty plea.
“It was hard to see him in person for the first time,” said Megan Gregory, mother of survivor Keegan Gregory.
“Just getting the guilty plea, I know for my own kid, I think it lifts a thousand pounds off his chest so he doesn’t have to stand there and testify and relive it all over again,” she said.
“So that was a big wake-up call for him and almost gave him permission to start the real healing process.”
Megan tried to show some sympathy for Gregory Crumbley, but she didn’t think he was remorseful, she said.
“I tried to see him as a kid who needed help, but as I get closer to this, I’m now struggling to forgive the people who killed someone else, the child abusers, the people who grabbed my son and almost played cat. And the rat in the bathroom,” Gregory said.
“That’s not true. I will never have the same child that I had on November 29th.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Ken Weaver said the indictment is a step toward justice for Hanna, Justin, Madisyn and Tate, their families, those injured and everyone affected by that horrific day.
Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the Oxford school shooting, had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges but changed his plea at Monday’s hearing.
His defense team gave the teenager notice of an insanity defense but ultimately decided a guilty plea was in his best interest, attorney Paulette Michael Loftin said Monday.
“Actually, based on the conversations we had and the review of the findings, we filed a notice of insanity. We felt it was appropriate to withdraw it and plead guilty today,” Loftin said.
After Crumbley’s guilty plea Monday, state Judge Kwame Rowe scheduled a hearing for Feb. 9 and said he would set a sentencing date after that, allowing the victims’ families to speak during the sentencing hearing.
The teenager’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Prosecutors said James Crumbley bought the gun used in the shooting four days before the fatal attack.
But prosecutors allege that Jennifer and James Crumbley “played a far greater role than buying their son a gun.”
The parents pleaded not guilty, and their attorneys argued in court documents that the charges had no legal justification and that the couple should not be held responsible for their son’s murders.
The parents’ trial was originally scheduled to begin on Monday, but was postponed last month to begin in January.
Jennifer and James Crumbley are in a county jail. There is a contact order barring Ethan Crumbley from speaking to his parents.
His lawyer said the teenager is likely to be a witness in his parents’ case.
During the teenager’s trial, prosecutors said Ethan Crumbley walked “orderly and deliberately” through the hallways, pointed a gun at students and fired at close range.
Students and teachers relied on tactics learned in active shooter drills to protect themselves.
As gunfire erupted, terrified students barricaded doors, turned off lights and called for help. Some children armed themselves with scissors in case they had to fight back.
Six students and one teacher were injured.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard praised the prosecutor and his own deputies for getting a “twisted and evil” man to plead guilty, sparing survivors and victims’ families the trauma of a trial.
Bouchard pointed to a pin he wore on his uniform that was awarded to all first responders to the shooting.
Each student killed in the shooting has four stars, one with the number 18 on it, representing the 18 rounds that Crumbley left behind when he was captured by police.
“My belief is that he would have fired everybody if he hadn’t been interrupted by deputies going in right away,” Bouchard said, comparing his team’s response to the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Parkland, Florida.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer thanked prosecutors and first responders after Crumbley’s guilty plea.
“Furthermore, I am grateful to the Michigan Legislature for their cooperation on bipartisan legislation to invest additional resources in Oxford Community Schools to help them hire mental health professionals, increase safety and provide additional learning time for students in the wake of a disaster,” Whitmer said in a statement.
In June, Whitmer signed legislation fully funding risk assessments and critical incident mapping in all Michigan schools to help protect students and create safety plans in case of emergencies, according to a statement from her office.
In July, the governor signed a bipartisan education budget that included an additional $250 million to respond to student mental health needs. Her office said.
“As Michiganders, we must do more to protect each other from gun violence,” Whitmer said. “Let’s work together on background checks, safe storage and red flag laws — commonsense gun violence prevention measures to keep our communities safe.”