Michigan teen eligible for life without parole for mass shooting, judge rules

By Brendan O’Brien and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – A Michigan judge on Friday ruled that a teenager who fatally shot four classmates and wounded six other people at his high school outside Detroit two years ago is eligible for a sentence of life in prison without parole.

At a hearing at Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan, Judge Kwame Rowe announced his decision that Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 years old when he carried out the mass shooting at Oxford High School, could receive a sentence that ruled out the possibility of parole.

The actual sentencing will take place at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 8.

Crumbley pleaded guilty last October to 24 charges, including one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder.

An adult convicted of such charges would normally receive a life sentence without the chance for parole, but judges are required to consider the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders as a result of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In explaining his decision Rowe said the chances of rehabilitating Crumbley were slim, and pointed out that the teenager while in jail hacked into a tablet to watch violent videos.

Crumbley’s crimes were premeditated, the judge said, and he even planned his surrender to police.

“He knew the full outcome of his actions and appreciated the consequences,” the judge said. “A defendant has to be one who wants to change if he is to be rehabilitated.”

During a four-day hearing in August, prosecutors showed video footage of the shooting, disturbing passages from the shooter’s journal and testimony from students and local law enforcement.

Prosecutors highlighted chilling statements that Crumbley had made before the massacre, including an audio recording in which he said he would “have so much fun” shooting his peers. Defense attorneys presented testimony from doctors who saw the potential to remedy Crumbley’s mental health issues over time.

Crumbley, now 17, carried out the massacre in November 2021 with a semi-automatic handgun that his father had bought him as a Christmas gift days earlier. He killed two boys, aged 17 and 16, and two girls, aged 17 and 14, and wounded six other students and a teacher.

The case appears to be the first in the United States in which the parents of a teenage school shooter have also been charged with crimes attributed to their child.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges connected to the shooting. In that case, Rochester District Court Judge Julie Nicholson said evidence showed they had bought a gun for their son despite signs that he was a “troubled young man.”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Alison Williams and Jonathan Oatis)