Michigan school shooting victims speak as teen faces possible life sentence

FILE -Oakland County Judge Kwame Rowe looks towards witness during cross examination, July 27, 2023, in Pontiac, Mich. A court hearing is underway, Friday, Dec. 8, as a Rowe hears from families and surviving victims of the Oxford school shooting. Ethan Crumbley could be sentenced to life in prison. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

By ED WHITE Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Parents of students killed at Michigan’s Oxford High School described the anguish of losing their children Friday as a judge considered whether a teenager will serve a life sentence for a mass shooting in 2021.

Crime victims in Michigan have a right to speak in court, and the final hearing in suburban Detroit was tense and emotional.

Ethan Crumbley, 17, could be locked up with no chance for parole for killing four fellow students and wounding others, a punishment sought by the Oakland County prosecutor.

But because of the shooter’s age, Judge Kwamé Rowe also could order a shorter sentence — anywhere from 25 years to 40 years at a minimum — that would eventually make him eligible for release by the state parole board.

“We are miserable. We miss Tate,” said Buck Myre, the father of Tate Myre. “Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed — ever.”

Nicole Beausoleil recalled seeing the body of her daughter, Madisyn Baldwin, at the medical examiner’s office, her hand with blue-painted fingernails sticking out from a covering.

“I looked though the glass. My scream should have shattered it,” Beausoleil said.

The shooter pleaded guilty to all 24 charges in the 2021 Oxford High School shooting, including first-degree murder and terrorism.

Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, also will have an opportunity to speak in court and possibly explain why he believes he should be spared a life sentence.

Defense attorney Paulette Michel Loftin has argued Crumbley deserves an opportunity for parole after his “sick brain” is fixed through counseling and rehabilitation.

But after listening to testimony from experts, Rowe said in September that he had found only a “slim” chance that Crumbley could be rehabilitated behind bars.

In a journal, the shooter wrote about his desire to watch students suffer and the likelihood that he would spend his life in prison. He made a video on the eve of the shooting, declaring what he would do the next day.

Crumbley and his parents met with school staff on the day of the shooting after a teacher noticed violent drawings. But no one checked his backpack for a gun and he was allowed to stay.

Like their son, Jennifer and James Crumbley are locked up in the county jail. They are awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, accused of making a gun accessible at home and neglecting their son’s mental health.

The shooter killed Myre, Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling at the school in Oxford Township, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Detroit. Six other students and a teacher also were wounded.

The Oxford school district hired an outside group to conduct an independent investigation. A report released in October said “missteps at each level” — school board, administrators, staff — contributed to the tragedy.

Crumbley’s behavior in class, including looking at a shooting video and gun ammunition on his phone, should have identified him as a “potential threat of violence,” the report said.


Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez