Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan teenager who killed four of his classmates after drawing violent images in a class workbook, will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Crumbley, now 17, was 15 years old when he shot and killed his fellow Oxford High School students — Tate Myre, 16 Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17 — in November 2021 with a gun he had received as a gift from his parents. A subsequent investigation revealed that he had been caught drawing violent images while in class before the attack.
He pleaded guilty in October 2022 to all the charges against him, 24 in total — including murder and terrorism. In September, Oakland County Judge Kwame Rowe ruled that Crumbley is eligible for the sentence of life without parole, which is what the prosecutors had requested. First-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence in Michigan, but Rowe could have potentially considered a shorter term because of the defendant’s age at the time.
His defense lawyers had requested a sentence of an undetermined “term of years.”
When Rowe issued his sentence, he was unequivocal: the defendant would never know life outside of prison.
“He has an obsession with violence,” Rowe said as he issued his sentence of life without the possibility of parole. “This act involved extensive planning, extensive research, and he executed on every last one of the things that he planned.”
Although defense lawyers had said the shooter had mental problems at the time of the attack, Rowe said that his “alleged mental illness did not interfere with his ability to extensively plan for months … nor his ability to execute those plans.”
He said that the defendant acknowledged that “this is nobody’s fault but his own,” and that “he stated this afternoon that [receiving help] probably still would not have stopped him. That is absolutely concerning to this court.”
The judge, who described the defendant as “the rare juvenile” who deserves to be behind bars for life, said that the shooter “wanted to see the impact of his crime, which is why he didn’t want to take his own life … he chose not to die on that day because he wanted that notoriety.”
He also noted that the defendant “himself is not asking this court for a term of years.”
Indeed, when the shooter spoke on his own behalf, he asked the judge to issue the sentence that the victims’ families had requested.
“Any sentence that they ask for, I ask that you do impose it on me,” he said. “I want them to be happy. I do want them to feel safe and secure. I don’t want them to worry another day.”
“I am a really bad person, I have done terrible things that no one should ever do,” he also said. “I have lied, been not trustworthy, I’ve hurt many people, and that’s what I’ve done and I’m not denying it.” He then insisted that he intends to make positive changes going forward, regardless of the sentence.
At Friday’s hearing, which started at 9 a.m. and lasted for more than seven hours, parents of the shooter’s young victims gave heart-wrenching testimony.
Buck Myre, father of Tate Myre, spoke emotionally about the immeasurable toll the loss of his youngest son has taken on his family.
“Love is obviously absent from our family, because there is no joy,” Buck Myre said. “When you have joy, it’s easy to love … me and my wife are trying to figure out how to save our marriage and how to save our family, and we didn’t even do anything to each other.”
Myre said that he and his family will work toward forgiveness, but only because it’s necessary.
“What other options do we have?” he said. “Be miserable for the rest of our lives and rob our family of normalcy? Be miserable and rob [brothers] Trent and Ty of a normal life filled with friends, their future wife and kids? Be miserable and rob [wife] Sheri and I of a happy life that we worked very hard for and earned … 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.”
Others expressed a demand for justice in voices overwhelmed with quiet, despairing anger.
“There can be no forgiveness,” said Steve St. Juliana, father of Hana St. Juliana. “There can be no rehabilitation … there is nothing he could ever contribute to society that could make up for the lives he has so ruthlessly taken.”
“I’m going to ask you to lock this son of a b—- up for the rest of his pathetic life,” Craig Shilling, father of Justin Shilling, said.
“To the waste that took my daughter’s life — that name will never come out of my mouth,” said Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of Madisyn Baldwin, who described her experience of having to see her daughter’s lifeless body on a gurney. “That life will cease to exist to me and just like trash it will be forgotten.”
Beausoleil told the shooter that when he feels overwhelmed by guilt, “no one will be there to save you. No one will forgive you. No one will hold No one will love you, and no one will come … I’m happy you decided not to be a coward that day and take your own life. I’d much rather you stick around and see the life you have chosen.”
After each statement, Rowe spoke directly to the victims’ loved ones, thanking them for sharing their stories and expressing sympathy for their loss.
“They do not fall on deaf ears,” he said multiple times.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald emphasized the permanent, devastating impact the shooting has had in arguing for a sentence of life without parole.
“We will all go home when this is over,” McDonald said. “But for these victims, there is no going home, because their loved one is not there.”
The defendant’s appointed guardian ad litem, Deborah McKay, defended the killer’s humanity, insisting that he is “salvageable” and can be rehabilitated.
“We’ve heard some say he is a monster, he is trash,” she said of her client. “I have to tell you, he is a life, he is a human being. He is a person.”
Defense attorney Paulette Michel Loftin insisted that her client is not the same person he was when he carried out the shooting and that with a combination of medication, therapy, and religion, he is on the road to improvement. She also framed the troubling and disturbing journals and videos from him before the attack as exaggerations.
As his advocates argued on his behalf, the shooter sat silently at the table, his head bowed, as it had been throughout the day — with rare exceptions.
One of those moments came when an Oxford student said she “will never have an ounce of forgiveness” for the defendant as she reached the end of her victim impact statement.
“After today, I will live my life, you will go behind bars and I will never have to see your face again,” she said. “You are a waste of space. I’m not sorry to say that. You’re not special. You don’t have a divine right. You’re just an insecure, weak, fragile, insecure boy who wouldn’t deal with his problems. Your name will never be said. Now the rest of us are left with the pieces. And I’m going to ask you one more time, to please look at me.”
At that, the defendant briefly lifted his head and looked at his former schoolmate.
Crumbley’s parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, are facing manslaughter charges in connection with their son’s attack on the school. Hours before the shooting, they had been called to the school after a teacher discovered their son’s disturbing drawings in a math workbook. They eventually left — without their son — after meeting with school officials and Ethan Crumbley himself.
After arrest warrants were issued for the parents, the Crumbleys appeared to have attempted to evade apprehension by the police but were eventually found hiding in a building near downtown Detroit, around 30 minutes away from Oakland.
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