Almost 11 months after Phoebe Arthur was shot in the cheek, neck, lung and two ribs, she had recovered enough to show up in court and see the shooter plead guilty.
“It was the first time I’ve seen him since and I didn’t react much to seeing him because he appeared different that day to me,” said Phoebe, now a 15-year-old sophomore. years at Oxford High School.
Phoebe’s mother, Sandra Arthur Cunningham, sat with her arm draped over Phoebe’s shoulder, watching a scene she described as a “surreal juxtaposition”.
“Phoebe was the first one he shot when he came out of that bathroom,” Arthur Cunningham said. “And Phoebe was the first one out the door when he walked in today, only chained up. … It was so weird thinking about it afterwards.
“It’s been a terrible year”
Arthur Cunningham said she felt lucky because her daughter survived, unlike four others.
At Monday’s hearing, Ethan Crumbley, now 16, admitted to injuring Phoebe and six others – and murdering 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17.
Baldwin’s mother, Nicole Beausoleil, sat in the front row about 10ft behind Crumbley as he answered yes when asked if he had shot Madisyn with intent to kill her.
Beausoleil sobbed silently, shaking his head up and down and using tissues to wipe the tears from his eyes.
“It’s been a horrible year for her and I’m sure all the other families have been,” said Wolfgang Mueller, an attorney who represents the Beausoleil and Arthur families in civil lawsuits.
“Today was a traumatic day,” he said. “And although there is a guilty plea, there are still many answers to be found.”
The plea was expected in a case where the identity of the shooter was never in doubt. Investigators said school security cameras recorded the mass shooting in detail and that Crumbley was arrested at the school with the weapon.
A victim who did not want to attend the Crumbley hearing
“Emotions are strong. It’s hard. It was hard seeing him for the first time in person,” Meghan Gregory said.
His son Keegan was terrified, but not shot by Crumbley. Keegan decided not to attend the hearing, although he thanked his mother for providing him with a link to an online stream of the proceedings.
“He struggles with the idea of being in the same room,” Gregory said after the hearing. “I think he was held hostage by him for almost six minutes. And so I think seeing him again is going to be a very difficult day.
Gregory said she was shocked to learn that Crumbley had paid for the murder weapon himself, giving the money to her father to make the purchase days before the shooting. This detail emerged during the hearing.
Crumbley was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit when deputies led him into the courtroom. He showed no outward emotion, responding “Yes” or “Yes, sir” to Judge Kwamé Rowe’s questions.
Moments after the hearing ended, Crumbley’s lawyer, Paulette Michel Loftin, told the media that he was remorseful.
“He really is,” she said. of a judge. He takes responsibility for his actions. »
“There’s No Soul There”
Ven Johnson, another civilian attorney representing the victims’ families, was unconvinced.
“It doesn’t do much for my clients, I can tell you that,” Johnson said.
Several families sued the school district, saying school officials could have done more to prevent the shooting.
Mueller said he detected no remorse.
“I’m frankly stunned by the lack of emotion,” Mueller said. “If he is going to plead guilty, I would have expected him to show remorse on his face. And there were none. There is no soul there. It was in cold blood what he did, and while he may have received a bad play of cards with the parents, it’s still a choice he made to do wrong and bring the tragedy at Oxford.
Johnson said the fact that Crumbley paid for the gun himself was significant, as was the fact that he was carrying the gun in his backpack. Johnson said Oxford school officials said in civil depositions that the gun was not in the backpack.
The courtroom was filled with relatives of the victims who sat in silence throughout the proceedings. Several of them exchanged hugs at the end, before exiting through a back door of the courthouse, avoiding the media.
A dozen Oakland County sheriff’s deputies stood guard in the courtroom, and one alerted those inside when Crumbley was about to enter.
Victims will have the opportunity to express themselves
“If there is a blessing, and it is a very small one, this defendant – through his guilty plea – has spared affected families, surviving victims and the grieving community further trauma of having to relive the events. of Nov. 1. 30 during a trial,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement.
At a press conference after the hearing, Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald said everyone at Oxford High School at the time of the shooting will be given the opportunity, if they wish, to speak about how she was affected.
“That’s why the decision to charge the shooter with terrorism, and today’s plea, is so important,” she said.
McDonald said his office did not engage in any plea denials, plea bids or sentencing agreements. Crumbley pleaded guilty to 24 counts.
He faces life in prison once convicted.
“I sat down with the victims, and it’s hard for them,” McDonald said. “It’s moving, but it’s a step forward.”
Evidence to be presented at the February 9 hearing
Due to recent changes in the law, minors charged as adults no longer risk the mandatory life in prison for first degree murder convictions, although this remains a possibility.
Because Crumbley was 15 at the time of the school shooting, he is entitled to a hearing where prosecutors and the defense can present evidence about the crimes, his background and other factors that could influence the sentencing decision. of the judge.
That hearing, called the Miller hearing, is scheduled for February 9.
McDonald said it was too early to tell what type of sentence prosecutors would pursue.
Bouchard called Crumbley “twisted and evil” and said he hoped to be sentenced to life without parole.
When asked what sentence she planned to seek in the case, Crumbley’s attorney, Loftin, said: ‘We would absolutely love a years term.
Will Crumbley testify against his parents?
Earlier in the case, defense attorneys told the court they could seek an insanity defense.
“Based on the conversations we had and review of the discovery, we felt it was appropriate to withdraw this and have him plead guilty,” Loftin said.
Crumbley remains locked up in the Oakland County Jail. He is separated from other prisoners, including his parents, who are also incarcerated there.
Jennifer and James Crumbley are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges, accused of buying the gun their son used in the shooting and failing to tell the school official he had access to it. Prosecutors also said the parents ignored the boy’s mental health needs.
Loftin said Ethan Crumbley could be called as a witness in her parents’ case, but she wasn’t sure if that would happen at this point.
When asked if she expected Ethan Crumbley to testify at the scheduled hearing before his sentencing, she replied: ‘That’s still a question. We don’t have a decision on that yet. »
Phoebe and others were relieved by the plea, which spared Ethan Crumbley a trial. His mother said Ethan Crumbley took responsibility for his actions before others.
“It’s interesting that a 16-year-old did this before…parents, before school,” she said. “We still want parents and the school to be held accountable because… they all played a part in this horrific, preventable tragedy.”
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