• Law

    Oxford High School shooter sentenced to life without parole

    Ethan Crumbley, 17, who murdered four of his classmates and injured seven others in the 2021 Oxford school shooting in Michigan, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame L. Rowe sentenced the shooter on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and terrorism causing death, all of which Crumbley pleaded guilty to in Oct. 2022. 

    Rowe had earlier ruled Crumbley’s status as a minor did not make him ineligible for a no-parole option upon sentencing and that rehabilitation was unlikely.

    Upon the completion of victim impact statements given to the court, Rowe thanked those who shared their stories and expressed condolences for their losses. 

    “The court cannot imagine the fear that the parents of those students at Oxford High School felt on Nov. 30, 2021,” Rowe said. “I know that whatever sentence the court imposes will not bring your loved one back or cure the mental anguish and lifelong physical scars that some of you have. But I hope that this sentence does allow you to close one chapter in your life.”

    Family members of the four deceased students— Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Julianna, and Justin Shilling— addressed the court in victim impact statements on Friday, followed by other students at the school and their parents talking about their experiences in the aftermath of the shooting.

    The shooter sat silently with his head down throughout the statements from victims, only raising it when Oxford student Avery Bernstein implored him during her speech to look at her.

    In his first-ever public statement, the shooter addressed the court just before the sentence was handed down. He said he feels remorse, and that he agreed with whatever sentence the court decided upon. 

    “I really am sorry for what I’ve done and what I’ve taken from them,” he said. “I can’t give it back, but I can try my best in the future to help other people.”

    A teacher and six other students were injured in the shooting but survived.

    Aidan Watson, who was shot in the leg on Nov. 30, said ahead of the sentence being read that the shooting has changed every aspect of his life. He now suffers from intense anxiety and panic attacks at school and in other public places. 

    “One time I was at a banquet for my sister and I saw a kid hiding in the corner in a black hoodie,” Aidan said. “I started crying and started to run out.”

    He remembers the person he used to be, before the shooting and before all his hopes and plans for life changed. 

    “When it happened, everything changed for me and everyone else,” Aidan said. “Before the shooting, I was a freshman in high school, in marching band and taking driver’s training, looking forward to everything I wanted so much that I know I can’t have now.”

    Aidan’s mother, Linda Watson, described picking her son up from a business neighboring the school after he had been shot, weaving in and out of traffic to make it to the hospital in Pontiac where other students were being treated. 

    “That night, no one slept but Aidan,” Linda said. “I cried all night. Aidan slept with pain medication, and the next morning I was so grateful when he woke up. I put my head on his chest just to hear his heartbeat, grateful he was alive, because some parents didn’t have that the next morning.” 

    After two years of recovery, Aidan still struggles with mobility issues and pain from his injury. He said that one of the only things that could make him feel safer is a life without parole sentence for the shooter.

    “He should be locked in prison forever,” Aidan said. “He should never be able to see the light of day again.”

    Life without parole hearing for Oxford school shooter continues, victims provide testimony

    Ashlynne Sutton is a senior at Oxford HS who was in a bathroom nearby the bathroom where the shooter began his rampage. Four girls were in the bathroom with her.

    Sutton said she tried to leave the bathroom to help her classmates after hearing their cries through the door, but was pushed back in by a security guard. She remained in the bathroom until a police officer escorted her and the others hiding there out a back door, trying to shield the bodies on the floor from their view. 

    “Your honor, I humbly request relief from the duty that may one day require me to confront the defendant at a parole hearing,” Sutton said requesting the life sentence.

    “My son trusted him. My son trusted you,” Catherine Waymaster said addressing the shooter. “Now my son trusts no one.” 

    Waymaster is the mother of two Oxford students. She recalled the day in horror, how the boy who played video games with her son and helped him with his homework destroyed the lives of so many at the school

    “My daughter chose to arm herself with the star from the top of the classroom Christmas tree to use as a stabbing device. Let that sink in,” Waymaster said. “For my daughter, it has always been her dream to become a teacher. Anyone who knows her would tell you she would make a great teacher. On November 30 that dream stopped.”

    Though Waymaster said her daughter has been able to make some movement back towards fulfilling her dream, “the fear of having a student like the defendant scares her. She thought she knew him— they were in many classes together over the years. She saw no evil brewing in him.”

    Waymaster recalled watching parents wait for their children, some of those who would never be reunited with their children.

    Crystal Baldwin was reunited with her son Mason at Meijer where students were sent to join their parents, but her niece never came.

    “We were not leaving until we knew Madisyn was safe,” Crystal said, talking about Madisyn Baldwin who was shot and killed by the shooter

    “I was in the hospital the day she was born. I witnessed her take her first breaths. She was not only my goddaughter, but felt more like a daughter to me,” Crystal said. “We were told to keep watching for the buses coming from the high school. Little did we know, my son’s bus was the last to arrive.”

    A former student at Oxford, and Madisyn’s friend Maddie Johnson, has since taken on roles in advocacy against gun violence. She tearfully talked about the loss of Madisyn.

    “I used to be a nicer person. I used to be a good friend. but I can’t be any of those things anymore because the only thing that is ever on my mind is those gunshots over and over again,” Johnson said.

    Much like other individuals who spoke earlier, Johnson talked about Madisyn’s capacity for kindness, a teenager who would draw little pictures on gum wrappers to make her smile.

    “I want the person who did this to know that Madisyn would have been your friend. I want you to know that she would have treated you with nothing but kindness, had you not killed her,” Johnson said.

    On the day of the shooting, Johnson said she and Madisyn were walking together in between classes and were taking a detour, but Johnson realized if she kept walking with Madisyn, she would be late to her class so she said goodbye.

    “I didn’t think that it was going to be permanent. I thought it was goodbye for an hour… ‘I’ll see you next class’,” Johnson said.

    Deborah McKelvey, the shooter’s court-appointed legal guardian, argued in a closing statement that he had experienced changes in character during his two years incarcerated, and should be given the opportunity for parole. 

    McKelvey said that her primary role was to spend time with the shooter and keep him company throughout his isolating experience in jail. She said she found herself “surprised” with his personality change over the course of two years. 

    “He is not the same person that he was,” McKelvey said. “I have discovered that he is a bright young man. He is an artist. He is a historian.”

    According to Rowe, the shooter’s demonstrated obsession with violence and the way he murdered his classmates negates the progress he may have made in solitary confinement. 

    “What the court knows is that he has an obsession with violence, that this act involved extensive planning and research, and that he executed every last one of the things that he planned,” Rowe said. “The defendant’s alleged mental illness did not interfere with his ability to extensively plan for months of his actions, nor did it interfere with his ability to execute them.”

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