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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 1°C
PA The scene of last year's shooting
# Michigan
Sixteen year old boy admits murdering four students in US school shooting
Ethan Crumbley withdrew his intent to pursue an insanity defence as part of the plea

A TEENAGER HAS pleaded guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder over a Michigan school shooting that put an extraordinary focus on the boy’s home life and the alleged role of his parents in the tragedy.

Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to all 24 charges, including the murder of four students, nearly a year after the attack at Oxford High School in south-eastern Michigan.

In the gallery, some relatives of the victims wept as assistant prosecutor Marc Keast described the crimes. The teenager repeatedly said “yes” to each charge.

The prosecutor’s office said no deals were made ahead of today’s plea.

A first-degree murder conviction typically brings an automatic life prison sentence in Michigan but teenagers are entitled to a hearing at which their lawyer can argue for a shorter term and an opportunity for parole.

The teenager withdrew his intent to pursue an insanity defence as part of the plea, and repeatedly acknowledged that he understood the potential penalties.

Deborah McKelvy, his court-appointed guardian, told Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame Rowe that she had met the teenager on Thursday at the county jail and believes he fully understands the consequences.

Ethan, now 16, had no disciplinary issues at the school, roughly 30 miles north of Detroit, but his behaviour earlier on the day of the mass shooting raised flags.

A teacher had discovered a drawing with a gun pointing at the words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” There was an image of a bullet with the message: “Blood everywhere.”

James and Jennifer Crumbley declined to take their son home on 30 November but were told to get him into counselling within 48 hours, according to investigators.

Ethan had brought a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun and 50 rounds of ammunition to school in his backpack that day and subsequently fired it at fellow students. Deputies rushed in and captured him within minutes.

A day earlier, a teacher had seen Ethan searching for ammunition on his phone.

embedded269392588 Ethan Crumbley attends a court hearing

The school contacted Jennifer Crumbley, who told her son in a text message “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught”, the prosecutor’s office said.

The Crumbleys are facing involuntary manslaughter charges. They are accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan and ignoring his need for mental health treatment.

Parents have rarely been charged over school shootings although the guns used commonly come from the home of a parent or close relative.

Prosecutors earlier this year disclosed that Ethan had hallucinations about demons and was fascinated by guns and Nazi propaganda.

“Put simply, they created an environment in which their son’s violent tendencies flourished. They were aware their son was troubled, and then they bought him a gun,” prosecutors said in a court filing.

The Crumbleys said they were unaware of Ethan’s plan to commit a school shooting. They also dispute that the gun was easy to grab at home.

Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St Juliana and Justin Shilling were killed, while six students and a teacher were wounded.

In addition to the counts of first-degree murder and terrorism causing death, Ethan was charged with seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possessing a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The judge set 9 February for the start of hearings to determine if he will be sentenced to life without parole or get a shorter sentence due to his age, and a chance at release.

His lawyers will be able to argue a variety of mitigating circumstances, including family life and mental health. Prosecutors did not signal in court if they will argue for a no-parole sentence.

Crumbley’s lawyer, Paulette Michel Loftin, said the teenager was remorseful. “He’s taking accountability for his actions,” she said. As for the victims, she said there was nothing she could say to give them comfort.

“Obviously it is an extremely emotional day. I don’t think there are any words that could make them feel any better,” she said.

Detroit attorney Ven Johnson, who represents families of several of the victims in a civil suit against the Oxford school district and the Crumbley family, said today’s plea “is one small step forward on a long path towards obtaining full justice for our clients”.

“We will continue to fight until the truth is revealed about what went wrong leading up to this tragedy, and who, including Crumbley’s parents and multiple Oxford Community Schools employees, could have and should have prevented it,” Johnson said. 

Author
Press Association