PONTIAC, Mich. (CN) — Ethan Crumbley, the Michigan student accused of fatally shooting four students and injuring several other classmates and a teacher at his high school last November, pleaded guilty Monday to all 24 charges against him, including the first terrorism charges brought against a U.S. school shooting suspect.
Crumbley, with unkempt hair grown down to his shoulders, appeared very thin wearing his orange jumpsuit as he shuffled with jingling shackles into a courtroom packed with people related to the victims as well as lawyers and journalists.
His court-appointed attorney Paulette Lofton opened the plea hearing by withdrawing a previous notice to use insanity as a defense and said her client agreed to the guilty plea.
Crumbley answered with quiet responses of “yes sir” and “no sir” as Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwamé L. Rowe asked if he understood the charges, his guilty plea and the possible sentence, including life in prison without parole.
Mark Keast, assistant prosecuting attorney for Oakland County, dove into more detail when he asked Crumbley to confirm a long list of several facts for the court record.
“It is true that when you exited the bathroom you began shooting at students and staff members?” Keast asked.
Crumbley responded "yes" but he was so quiet the judge asked him to speak up. He also confirmed he planned the attack with a gun purchased for him by his parents.
David Williams, the chief assistant prosecutor for Oakland County, released a statement Friday that said Crumbley did not receive a break for his admission of guilt formally entered on Monday.
“There are no deals whatsoever. No reductions, no sentence agreements, nothing,” he said.
Crumbley has been in custody at an adult detention center but was subject to review every 30 days under state law, which will continue next month. Rowe held brief hearings over the course of the year in which the defense eventually stopped arguing against Crumbley's placement in adult jail.
At a hearing last Thursday, the judge mentioned there would be a Monday pretrial hearing but did not disclose the purpose at the time. On Friday, news broke that the now-16-year-old would plead guilty to the charges.
Crumbley’s attorneys unsuccessfully contested his detention location. Last December, Attorney Deborah H. McKelvy, appointed as his guardian ad litem, suggested a move to juvenile detention for his well-being that was rejected by the judge.
McKelvey said at Monday’s hearing that she spoke with Crumbley last week to confirm his intent to plead guilty.
“He understands what the process is…[it] is something he desires to do today,” she said.
In early January, Crumbley stood mute as his court-appointed attorney entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. The then-15-year-old was charged as an adult with 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 during the commission of a felony over the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan.
As he questioned the teen Monday, Keast made a point to confirm that James Crumbley, his father, purchased the 9mm handgun for his son and did not make any effort to keep it locked away for safety at their home.
Jennifer and James Crumbley – the first parents of a school shooter to be charged with a crime related to the shooting – remain in custody as they fight manslaughter charges. Their attorneys filed appeals documents with the Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 10 claiming they were innocent because they had nothing to do with the planned attack and are not “responsible for the deaths of others.” The filings said their son bears complete responsibility.
The pair will be back in court on Oct. 28 for a hearing to determine the admissibility of certain expert witnesses. They are currently scheduled to go to trial in January.
“When you hear somebody admit that he intended to hurt so many people, people he didn’t even know, it’s difficult to say the least,” he said.
Rowe did not set a sentencing date for Crumbley but said it would happen in the spring.
Eight victims survived the massacre while three students were pronounced dead the day of the shooting and a fourth victim succumbed to his injuries the next morning.
Several lawsuits have been filed by the families of students wounded and killed. The complaints accuse Oxford school officials of not doing enough to stop the massacre as well as not adapting new policies to handle troubled students.
Oxford, population 3,586, is in central Oakland County, about 40 miles north of Detroit.
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