Pontiac – The Oxford High shooting suspect is expected to plead guilty next week to charges up to life in prison, a spokesperson for the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday.
Ethan Crumbley, 16, faces 24 felony charges, including terrorism and first-degree premeditated murder in the Nov. 30 shooting that killed Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling, and injured six students and a teacher. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“We can confirm that the shooter is expected to plead guilty to all 24 counts, including terrorism, and the prosecutor has notified the victims,” Assistant District Attorney David Williams told the Detroit News. Williams didn’t give details and declined to answer questions.
Crumbley is scheduled Monday morning for what was expected to be a routine in-person preliminary hearing before Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe. It is unclear how a plea might affect the hearing and the defense attorneys’ prior intention to seek an insanity defense. Defense attorneys did not return calls Friday for comment.
Lawyers for Crumbley had originally planned to mount an insanity defense against the teenager, who was 15 at the time of the shooting. Lawyer Paulette Michel Loftin told The News in January that she and fellow defense attorney Amy Hopp believed Crumbley was mentally capable, but were going to argue that he was not criminally responsible at the time of the shooting presumed – particularly if he had the ability to conform his actions to the law or knew the difference between right and wrong.
Experts said the defense team had an “uphill battle” trying to mount a defense against insanity. William Amadeo of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, a defense attorney with a history of defending people with mental health issues, said it was extremely rare for Michigan defendants to be found unfit to stand trial, let alone not guilty by reason of insanity.
Earlier on Friday, the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office sent an email to Oxford Criminal Case subscribers stating that Crumbley “may decide to plead guilty rather than have a trial” on Monday during the preliminary hearing scheduled.
“Based on statements from the shooter’s attorney, the prosecution team expects him to choose to plead guilty, but we won’t know for sure until the hearing begins on Monday. We want to that you know that the prosecution is not denying or reducing any of the charges, and that no ‘bargaining of sentence’ of any kind is offered to the shooter,” according to the email from Mary Larkin, Chief of Services. to victims in the prosecutor’s office.
Crumbley is charged with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
But if Crumbley does not plead guilty on Monday, the DA’s office expects the trial to remain set for Jan. 17, Larkin wrote.
Mixed reactions in Oxford
Lori Bourgeau, an Oxford parent whose son was inside the high school at the time of the shooting, said Friday the news of an impending guilty plea worried her.
“We were told that we would find out the facts about the day and the days before November 30 during the trial. How do we know now? How do we understand errors? said Bourgeau.
Bourgeau criticized the school district’s “third-party” investigation into the attack as a “paid investigation” that would not result in full disclosure of facts and guilt. The district declined Attorney General Dana Nessel’s offer to conduct an outside investigation.
“It was reassuring that there would be a day when we would find out what happened and could advocate for change in Michigan schools. It feels like a real loss to all of Michigan by not disclosing these facts,” Bourgeau said.
Tom Donnelly, former chairman of the Oxford School Board, said on Friday he was grateful for the development.
“I had hoped that before the anniversary of the shooting, this community would experience something like this,” Donnelly said. “I think it avoids a long and drawn-out trial, which is just painful even if the result is in your favor. It’s a confession and a guilty plea and at least this chapter can be finished without asking questions about Ethan.
Donnelly, who resigned last month After alleging that district attorneys withheld documents related to the November 30 massacre, he also said he hoped the community would get the answers they wanted about what happened before the shooting.
“I’m saddened they don’t get this,” he said. “The third-party investigation will continue. They can still do a thorough investigation.”
Korey Bailey, the former Oxford school board treasurer, said a guilty plea would bring relief to the Oxford community, but they need the district to be held to account for their role in the tragedy.
“They are still looking for the school district to hold accountable people who did not take the threat assessment seriously. …Until the school district is willing to admit that it failed threat assessments and will fix it in the future, the community will not get what it is looking for,” said Bailey.
No effect on parents’ lawsuit
If the teen pleads guilty, Larkin said the Oakland County prosecutors team doesn’t expect that to affect the unscheduled January trial date in his parents’ case.
Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The parents are charged with manslaughter in what prosecutors allege as gross negligence, including buying a handgun for their son, failing to secure the gun, failing to remove it from the school when informed of disturbing behavior and not to inform school officials of the handgun. Lawyers for Crumbley’s parents argued they were unaware of their son’s plans and they tried to lock up the gun.
The parents’ attorneys have also previously stated that they could call their son as a witness in their trial. In late June, Shannon Smith told Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews that Ethan Crumbley “may be called to provide information about the events leading up to the shooting.”
Crumbley had just appeared before Judge Rowe on Thursday for a virtual placement hearing regarding his incarceration at Oakland County Jail. During the hearing, the prosecutor’s office and Crumbley’s defense attorneys all told Rowe there was nothing new to report on the teenager’s status and Rowe ordered him to stay. in prison.
In court filings, lawyers described Crumbley as a troubled teenager with hallucinations, including a demon living in his house. His parents rebuffed his requests for mental health counseling and instead bought him a handgun and took him to a shooting range to learn how to fire the gun, investigators said.
When teachers became concerned about some of his behavior at school – including violent drawings on homework and searching for ammo on his mobile phone – his parents were called to the school on November 30 and refused to take him out of school. He was allowed to return to class with his unsearched school backpack, which authorities said contained his handgun, ammunition and a journal with his plans to shoot people at school.
Within two hours the shooting took place and he was arrested by officers.
“James and Jennifer Crumbley had no idea a murder would be committed,” Smith said during a February 25 hearing, where she also said the teen had at least two social media accounts that his parents didn’t follow. not and perhaps would not have been. aware of.
The three Crumbleys are being held in the Oakland County Jail, though Ethan is kept away from adults.
Staff writer Kara Berg contributed.