The teenager who committed the deadliest high school shooting in Michigan history, killing four students and injuring seven other people, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Friday.
Ethan Crumbley was a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit on Nov. 30, 2021, when he pulled a 9 millimeter Sig Sauer handgun out of his backpack. He had persuaded his father to purchase the gun for him just days earlier.
Killed in the attack were Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Hana St. Juliana, 14.
Michigan does not have the death penalty. In September, Judge Kwamé Rowe ruled that despite being a minor, and despite his difficult life, Ethan was eligible for a sentence of life without parole. He had pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree murder.
Family members attending the sentencing hearing on Friday described the devastating impact of the shooting on their lives.
“Nov. 30, 2021, is a day that has forever changed my life. It burns into my body like a cigarette burn,” Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of Madisyn Baldwin, said. “It’s a feeling that no parent should ever feel.”
Speaking to the gunman but not saying his name, Ms. Beausoleil stated, “I don’t wish death upon you, that would be too easy. I hope the thoughts consume you and they replay over and over in your head,” she said. “I hope the screams keep you up at night.”
Steve St. Juliana, the father of Hana, told the court on Friday that he cannot forgive the gunman for murdering his daughter and the three other students. “There can be no rehabilitation,” he said, adding that “there is utterly nothing that he could ever do to contribute to society that would make up for the lives that he has so ruthlessly taken.”
Former Oxford High School students who were shot on Nov. 30 but survived spoke about their resulting physical limitations and the ways that their anxiety had changed how they think, feel and act every day. Other students similarly talked about constant struggles with nightmares, depression and panic attacks.
“I mourn the life I once had,” said Riley Franz, 19, who was shot in the neck that day.
As family members of each of the victims and former and current Oxford High School students and parents spoke, Ethan kept his head down and did not appear to look at any of the speakers.
In her closing remarks on Friday, Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, urged the judge to sentence Ethan to life in prison without parole, drawing attention to the suffering of the survivors.
“They don’t think they’re safe, some can’t sleep, some have to sleep in their parents room.,” Ms. McDonald said. “There’s a deep, deep loss, loss of safety, loss of loved ones. But most importantly, what I heard was they lost themselves.”
Deborah McKelvy, who was appointed by the court to represent Ethan’s interests, asked for a sentence that would come with the possibility of parole.
“He is a life, he is a human being, he is a person,” Ms. McKelvy said, while acknowledging Ethan’s horrific actions.
“His life is worth salvaging,” she added. “His life is worth rehabilitating.”
Before he was sentenced, Ethan spoke to the court directly, saying that he was going to try to be a better person and asking that the judge impose a sentence on him that would give the families of the victims a “final sense of culpability that justice has somewhat been served.”
“I’m really am sorry for what I’ve done,” he added.
Testimony in pretrial hearings, required because of the gunman’s youth, revealed that he had hoped to become famous as Michigan’s most notorious school shooter. Depressed because of his unhappy childhood, he had written in a journal that his “first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer just like me.” He had even done an internet search to find out what sentence he would face.
His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were not permitted to attend the sentencing. They are also in jail, awaiting trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter for contributing to their son’s actions. They have pleaded not guilty.
The evidence disclosed in pretrial hearings revealed that the parents had neglected their son and ignored his symptoms of mental illness — including hallucinations that a “demon” was inside the family’s home.
Just hours before the shooting, the couple had been called to the school because a teacher saw a drawing by Ethan depicting a shooting.
“Blood everywhere,” he wrote. “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
But the Crumbleys ignored a school counselor’s advice that they take their son home that day.
Judge Rowe ruled that those mitigating factors did not outweigh the heinous nature of his crime.
The judge’s sentence comes as Michigan lawmakers consider legislation that would ban life-without-parole sentences for minors in the state.
If the bill passes, Michigan would join 28 other states and the District of Columbia in banning such sentences for juvenile offenders.
Preston Shipp, senior policy counsel for the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, an organization that opposes life without parole for juveniles, said that Michigan has more juveniles serving life in its prison system than any other state.
“If this case had happened in Texas or Arkansas or Virginia, life without parole would not be an option,” Mr. Shipp said. “He’s in the worst place on the planet for how it deals with children who cause harm.”
Arguing in favor of a life sentence without parole for Ethan during a pretrial hearing, Karen D. McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, called the Oxford High School shooting an example of “the rare case and the rare defendant.”