Mich. High School Shooter Sentenced to Life Without Parole

Dec. 8, 2023
Ethan Crumbley had pleaded guilty last year to killing four fellow Oxford High School students and wounding six others and a teacher in 2021.

PONTIAC, MI — The teen who killed four people at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole Friday.

After a wrenching day of emotional statements from victims touched by the Nov. 30, 2021, Oxford High School shooting, the shooter told an Oakland County judge he has done terrible things that no one should ever do and was sorry for the attack that killed four people.

"Any sentence that they ask for, I ask that you impose it on me," Ethan Crumbley said at the end of his sentencing hearing Friday. "I want them to be happy, I want them to feel secure and safe. I don’t want them to worry another day."

He did not react when Rowe delivered his sentence, besides looking at the judge once before returning his gaze to the floor.

Crumbley pleaded guilty in October 2022 to killing Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17. He also pleaded guilty to injuring six other students and a teacher, who was the only injured victim to testify during the shooter's hearing.

In all, 29 people, including parents of those slain, students and a teacher injured in the attack, and the parents of students who were at the school that day gave victim statements at Crumbley's sentencing hearing Friday in Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame Rowe's courtroom.

Every parent, sibling and victim who spoke about a possible sentence for the shooter asked Rowe to give him life in prison without parole.

The decision by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald to bring a state terrorism charge against Crumbley in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting means a broad definition of victims — regardless of physical injury — had a voice at the sentencing.

The shooter's defense team asked Rowe to sentence him to a term of years.

Defense attorney Amy Hopp said granting the shooter the chance of parole would give him an opportunity to demonstrate that he can be rehabilitated, that he can make amends and that he can contribute to society in a positive way if he is released.

“The Ethan I met two years ago is not the Ethan that sits here today for sentencing. He has made remarkable progress in addressing his issues. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a ways to go, because he does,” Hopp said. “He’s demonstrated he can change himself for the better.”

Deborah McKelvy, Crumbley’s guardian ad litem, also spoke at the sentencing. She said she has gotten to know him as an individual since the shooting, as opposed to how nearly everyone else knows him, from before the shooting.

“He is not the same person that he was then,” McKelvy said. “If you look at him as a human being who is salvageable and rehabilitatable, then life in prison without parole is not the appropriate sentence. I know everybody who spoke today probably cannot see that in Ethan. But his life is worth more than the worst thing he did. And what he did is probably the worst thing you could do on the face of the earth.”

In his remarks before Rowe gave his sentence, Crumbley said he plans to "be better."

"I am a really bad person. I have done terrible things that no one should ever do. I have lied, been not trustworthy, I've hurt many people. … I'm not denying it. That’s not who I plan on being. ... I do plan to be better. I don’t know if you'll believe that."

The shooter's attorneys requested he be allowed to have two non-attorneys speak at his sentencing, but Rowe denied the request. Crumbley's parents asked to attend Friday's sentencing, but their request was also denied. James and Jennifer Crumbley are facing involuntary manslaughter charges connected to the shooting.

Victims' families share their pain

Nicole Beausoleil doesn't wish death upon the boy who killed her daughter, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin.

Death would be too easy, said Beausoleil, the first parent to give a statement Friday. She wants him, the boy whose name she shall not speak, to suffer, for the screams to keep him up at night and cause real hallucinations. She wants the guilt to eat away at his soul.

Beausoleil was the first of more than a dozen victims who spoke at Ethan Crumbley's sentencing Friday for killing four classmates at Oxford High School and injuring six others and a teacher.

She did not shed any tears as she spoke to Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame Rowe. She was full of anger, passion and love for her Madisyn.

She told Rowe about Madisyn's laughter, her contagious smile, her intelligence, her passion, her fearless drive and determination.

"She is a light when you need it most," Beausoleil said. "When the world gets dark, she is the stars."

Beausoleil didn’t believe that Madisyn was really dead until she had to go to the medical examiner’s office to identify her daughter’s body. She saw her blue fingernails peeking out from under a sheet, the blood smeared in her hair. She collapsed outside the medical examiner’s office, devastated she would not be allowed to touch or hold Madisyn.

Now, just over two years after her daughter’s life was taken, Beausoleil said, she worries she’ll forget the best parts of her daughter. But her legacy remains and she’ll always be the heartbeat of their family.

"After that day, she became a statistic, a victim, a planned act of tragedy," Beausoleil said. "But I will not allow her name to be followed by 'Oxford shooting victim.'"

Buck Myre broke down in front of Rowe as he spoke about his "Tater" and how the past two years have impacted their family. His 16-year-old son Tate was killed in the shooting.

“Our family has been navigating our way through complete hell,” Myre said. “We wear the pain like a heavy coat, constant reminders every day. Every hour is the darkest time of the day. … We are miserable. We miss Tate. Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed.”

He told the shooter he wants him to spend the rest of his life rotting in his cell. He already stole Tate from them; they won’t let him steal a life of normalcy as well. They need to start working their way to forgiveness, because the other option, to be miserable for the rest of their lives, is unthinkable, he said.

“So to this day, you are winning, but today is a day when the tides change,” Myre said. “Today we’re going to take our (lives) back. We’re all cried out, we’re all tired out. We need to take this chip off our shoulder. We’ve been on this island far too long. We are the prisoner, not you. Nobody else can set us free but us.”

Tate’s oldest brother, Trent, also spoke in front of Rowe. He often thinks about the “what ifs” — where Tate would be going to school, what life would look like if Tate were here. His future kids won’t be able to meet their uncle, he won’t be able to have his brother as his groomsman, his parents won’t be able to watch their son grow up.

Trent asked Rowe to give the shooter life without parole.

“This coward took these actions knowing the consequences and effects it would have on people and this community,” Trent said. “He took the selfish actions of taking four lives away. … He should never have the opportunity to see the light again. He waived his right and opportunity when he took the lives away of those four beautiful souls.”

Jill Soave, mother of Justin Shilling, said the manner in which Justin was coldly and clearly executed makes the shooter deserve life without parole, even without the other three lives he took and the people he terrorized and injured.

She spoke fondly of her happy, humble, hardworking and empathetic son, who saved five lives with the organs he donated after his death. His future was so bright and full of possibilities, Soave said.

“You may have ended Justin’s life on this plane, but you did not in any way affect his soul,” Soave said. “You don’t have the power to do that. You may have caused the pain and terror as you intended to do, but you did not destroy us. There is more love and light in the world because of the legacies of Justin, Tate, Hana and Madisyn.”

She addressed the shooter, saying she does not focus on hating him; she doesn’t feel anything towards him. He doesn’t even exist to her, she said, and will be forgotten about. If he is miserable now, she said, it is only going to get worse.

“If you were that lonely, that miserable, that lost and you really needed a friend, Justin would’ve been your friend if you had only asked him,” Soave said.

Steve St. Juliana, father of Hana St. Juliana, told the courtroom that the defendant purposely murdered his daughter and the three other victims to make himself feel better.

“I want to make my position clear — there can be no forgiveness. There can be no rehabilitation. There is absolutely nothing the defendant can do to ever earn my forgiveness,” Steve said. “There is nothing he can do to contribute to society to make up for their lives.”

Steve said the impact of the death of his 14-year-old daughter was impossible to convey.

"It has destroyed a large part of my soul. I am a shell of the person I used to be. I miss her," he said.

Ai St. Juliana, Hana’s mother, said seeing happy families, mothers and daughters and a pair of sisters makes her sad because it reminds her of Hana. Every time she has a happy moment, she thinks of Hana and is sad.

“The rare moments of relief are times when I don’t have to think about her,” Ai said in a written statement that was read by her daughter, Reina St. Juliana.

Reina, Hana’s older sister, said Hana was her best friend, her other half. Instead of the chance to speak at her wedding and fishtail-braid her hair before lacrosse games, she spoke at her funeral and curled her hair for her coffin, she said.

For the “creature” who left Hana to die in a pool of her own blood, crying in pain, she said "he doesn’t deserve to live. The least that can be done is for him to spend the rest of his life in prison, to never have the chance to take another life," Reina said.

The shooter did not look up as any of the victims were talking. He stared down at his lap the entire time, sitting in between his attorneys.

Shooting survivors describe guilt, lasting fear

Several students who were shot or directly witnessed the shootings also gave statements during Friday's sentencing.

Kylie Ossege was a senior at Oxford High School when she was shot. She said she thought she was going to die as she lay on the ground, unable to move or drag herself to safety.

She lay in a pool of blood on the carpet, with Hana St. Juliana dying next to her. She pleaded with Hana to keep breathing, to stay with her, reassuring her that someone would come help. It took 15 minutes before paramedics came to them.

Kylie stayed in the hospital after the shooting until January, healing from broken ribs, a shattered clavicle and a graze to her spine. She lives in constant pain and struggles to walk long distances, she said, and she hasn't been able to ride a horse, something that brings her great joy, since the shooting.

Kylie said she’s had multiple spine surgeries and now has a thermoregulation disorder that leaves her unable to regulate her body temperature.

“My life has changed its path entirely,” Kylie said. “However, your honor, I refuse to let the cowardly acts of a person impact the rest of my life. … No one will ever take my happiness away from me, because I am the strongest person I know.”

Keegan Gregory, who survived the attack, told the court that he was next to Justin Shilling when he was murdered in the boy’s bathroom that day in school.

Keegan spoke of how fear overwhelms him and brings him to a dark place.

“I feel the guilt of surviving. If it wasn’t Justin’s life that was taken, it would have been mine. I feel guilty being alive,” Keegan said.

Keegan, who fled the bathroom on foot after Justin was shot, said in the days after the shooting he could not go back into school. He still cannot go back into crowded spaces without feeling afraid.

Keegan asked Rowe for a sentence that will make sure the killer never hurts anyone again, and said he hoped the killer would receive counseling to understand the impact of his actions.

“I hope he realized how unnecessary it was,” Keegan said. “My hope is one day things will steady out and my life will become easier. I hope we will come out of this stronger.”

Aiden Watson, who was a freshman at the time of the shooting, was shot in the leg. He said he’s had residual leg pain from the shooting and has struggled to be in crowds. He said he’s scared to be indoors in situations where he couldn’t get out and is “worried about everything all the time now.”

“Before the shooting I was a freshman in high school, in marching band, taking drivers' training,” Aiden said. “I wanted so much that I know I can’t have now.”

He still doesn’t remember details of the shooting, and when he watched the video of it in the prosecutor’s office, he realized his memory was wrong, which he said was difficult.

He wants the shooter to spend life in prison without parole because "he does not deserve to walk amongst others in the world," he said.

Linda Watson, Aiden’s mom, said her sweet, sincere, loving boy who always looked out for his family changed after the trauma. The bullet destroyed part of his leg and it took 47 days for his wounds to scab over, Watson said. Every bandage change removed his skin, made him bleed and caused him pain, no matter how they did it, she said.

Handling Aiden’s injuries and mental recovery was hard and felt impossible, Watson said. He was in pain and scared, having panic attacks and struggling to get through the days. He heard gunshots that weren’t there; fireworks, balloons popping and nail guns from construction sites set off attacks because it sounded too similar to bullets.

“We’ve been told we are the lucky ones, that we need to stop being negative, that we should be grateful he is alive,” Watson said. “I want (the shooter) to know he did cause suffering, but what will happen next in his life and next in our lives will be the exact opposite. We will move on. He will not.”

'I hope you regret it'

Because of the state terrorism charges against the shooter, victims who were not injured in the attack as well as parents and siblings of students who were at Oxford High School that day also had the chance to make victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing.

Some of those victims were close friends of the students who died in the attack. Others shared the terror of being trapped in a classroom not knowing if they would be the next to die. Most came up with a parent by their side to support and steady them.

Avery Bluenstein, who was a freshman at Oxford at the time of the shooting, recalled thinking about her funeral as she hid in her classroom during the shooting. She wondered about what people would talk about at her funeral, because she was only 14 and hadn’t accomplished anything. She thought she was about to die in her world history classroom.

During her victim impact statement, Avery asked the shooter multiple times to look at her. He ignored her at first, but on her last request, he briefly glanced at her. It was the only time in the hearing he reacted to anything a victim said. He spent most of the hearing staring at his lap, twiddling his fingers.

“Whatever punishment the shooter gets, it will not be enough,” Avery said. “On November 30, 2021, I was given my very own life sentence. I was sentenced to a lifetime of PTSD. … I didn’t deserve this. My community didn’t deserve this. You didn’t rob me of my kind heart, even though I’m sure you wanted to. You do not have any power over me.”

Avery sobbed as she came out of the courtroom.

Madeline Johnson, Madisyn’s best friend, said not even a million life sentences would begin to repair the damage the shooter has done.

She, too, addressed the shooter: “I hope you regret it. I hope it eats away at you. I hope you feel even a fraction of the loneliness I’ve felt over the past two years.”

Catherine Waymaster, whose twin children knew the shooter, said her daughter Danielle had stopped at her classroom to drop off her backpack. Her friends, Phoebe Arthur and Elijah Mueller, who she usually walked in the halls with, were shot. That weighs heavy on Waymaster’s mind, that her daughter also could have been shot — or killed.

Her son, Michael, who was not in school that day, considered the shooter to be a friend. They played video games in school together when they had free time and the shooter would help him with homework in class. He trusted him; now he trusts no one, she said.

Danielle had classes with the shooter and thought she knew him, Waymaster said. He nearly changed her mind about wanting to be a teacher because “she saw no evil brewing in him” and worried she wouldn’t be able to see it in other students.

“For a long time I felt isolated and unsure if teaching was right for me,” Waymaster said Danielle wrote in an essay at school. “Soon I realized I could not let the actions of one troubled individual stifle my passion for teaching.”

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