Michigan school shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole

By Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Zoe Sottile, CNN

Updated 9:55 PM ET, Fri December 8, 2023
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6:04 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Oakland County prosecutor comforted by "sense of peace and closure" after Crumbley sentencing

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said they are "comforted that there is some sense of peace and closure" after a judge sentenced Ethan Crumbley to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Crumbley pleaded guilty last year to one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder and 19 other charges related to the deadly shooting at Oxford High School in 2021.

McDonald said she spoke to the school shooting victims after the trial and said that no one is celebrating Friday’s sentencing.

She said while Crumbley’s remarks to the court ahead of the sentencing weren’t “going to bring peace” to the hundreds of people in the case, her team is glad they got the results they wanted.

“It was the right thing to do,” she said.

McDonald said she thinks the dozens of victim impact statements resonated with everyone who was able to listen.

“We put a name and a voice to victims of terrorism and it’s the first time in the country that that's happened for a school shooting,” the Oakland County prosecutor said. “The courage and the fierceness of what they said, these things will stay with them for the rest of their lives and that's why that charge is so important because we have to name that and give them the dignity that they’re due.”

Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard also commended the judge for sentencing Crumbley to life without the possibility of parole. He said in a statement Friday that it was "the appropriate thing" to do.

"He said he was prepared to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is appropriate that the system granted his wish," Bouchard said.

The sheriff said he hopes the families of those killed can take another step forward "in processing this unthinkable tragedy."

5:27 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Ethan Crumbley is remorseful 2 years after deadly school shooting, defense attorney says

From CNN's Rob Frehse

Attorney Paulette Loftin speaks following Ethan Crumbley's sentencing on Friday.
Attorney Paulette Loftin speaks following Ethan Crumbley's sentencing on Friday. WDIV

Ethan Crumbley’s defense attorney said her client is remorseful two years after the deadly Oxford High School shooting and that a lifetime in prison will be “extremely difficult” for him.

"I can’t tell you exactly what he’s told me but over 175 visits I’ve had with him, there’s remorse," attorney Paulette Loftin said in the courtroom hallway after sentencing.

Crumbley was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing four people and injuring seven others at the high school in 2021.

Loftin said she’s proud of Crumbley for making a statement in court and apologizing, something she said she did not know he would do.

“I’m proud of him. It’s a first step to healing for the community and for him moving forward and dealing with a lifetime that’s going to be extremely difficult," she said.

Asked what is different for Crumbley since the shooting two years ago, Loftin said things like "medication, seeing a therapist, having positive adults in his life” were all part of the change that has begun for him. 

Loftin also said Crumbley wasn’t surprised by the sentence.

“He is relieved that this is done, he’s been in solitary confinement for two years,” Loftin told reporters. “For someone that is very, very young, that is difficult so I know he is happy to move forward and wants to look forward to being rehabilitated.“
4:48 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Crumbley is the first minor originally sentenced to life without parole since 2012 Supreme Court ruling

From CNN's Jean Casarez

Ethan Crumbley has become the first minor to receive an original sentence of life without the possibility of parole since a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling saying that sentencing a child to life without parole is excessive for all but the rare offender.

According to court documents in the case, Crumbley, now 17, is the first juvenile offender to be originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole after the US Supreme Court’s Miller v. Alabama ruling on minors and prison sentences. 

Some context: In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that two men convicted of killings committed when they were 14 could not be sentenced to life in prison without at least the possibility of parole. In a subsequent 2021 ruling, the nation's highest court upheld the sentence of life without parole for a juvenile offender in a 6-3 decision, rejecting arguments that such sentences should have additional limits. The 2021 ruling was thought to pave the way for future minors to receive the harsh sentence.

4:38 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Attorney representing families in the civil suit against Oxford High School issues statement

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian

Attorney Ven Johnson of Ven Johnson Law issued the following statement in response to the sentencing of Ethan Crumbley to life without parole in the Oxford High School shooting sentencing today.

"Today signifies a pivotal step towards justice for our clients and all survivors, forever changed by the abhorrent actions of the shooter during the Oxford High School shooting — an incident that should have been prevented by those entrusted to protect these children. Despite the two-year delay, the gravity of the situation endures, and this sentencing is a crucial stride towards accountability. We wholeheartedly support Judge Kwame Rowe's decision to condemn him to life in prison without parole. Our dedication to pursuing justice stands resolute — our work to keep Oxford Community Schools and various OCS employees accountable will persist,"– Johnson's statement read.

Ven represents four plaintiffs in his ongoing civil lawsuit.

4:46 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Judge says he hopes sentence brings some kind of closure to victims' families

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Judge Kwamé Rowe presides over the sentencing hearing of Ethan Crumbley on Friday in Pontiac, Michigan.
Judge Kwamé Rowe presides over the sentencing hearing of Ethan Crumbley on Friday in Pontiac, Michigan. Carlos Osorio/Pool/AP

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwamé Rowe said he hopes that by sentencing Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley to life in prison without parole, families of the victims can close this chapter of their lives.

Before issuing the sentencing, the judge said he "cannot even begin to fathom” the fear of parents whose child attended the school on the day of the shooting. The court heard dozens of victim statements on Friday.

“I know that whatever sentence the court imposes will not bring your loved ones back or cure the mental anguish or the lifelong physical scars that some of you have, but I hope the sentence does allow you to close one chapter in your life," Rowe said.

Crumbley’s defense argued that he had a mental illness and should receive a sentence that included a possibility of parole.

The judge countered that argument, saying Crumbley has an “obsession with violence” and planned and researched the shooting extensively. He said mental illness did not interfere with his actions.

“And he executed on every last one of the things that he planned,” Rowe said.

The judge pointed out that he started planning the shooting weeks before carrying it out and even made sure he had a gun that would do the most damage.

Rowe said the sentence served as both private and public deterrence — to stop Crumbley from committing another similar act and to dissuade anyone else from "doing anything like this in the future."

4:04 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

JUST IN: Michigan school shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole

From CNN's Ray Sanchez

Ethan Crumbley is seen during sentencing on Friday.
Ethan Crumbley is seen during sentencing on Friday. WDIV

Teenager Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for gunning down four classmates and wounding seven other people at Michigan’s Oxford High School in 2021.

4:42 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

"I am a really bad person," Crumbley tells court before sentencing

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Ethan Crumbley speaks during his sentencing hearing on Friday.
Ethan Crumbley speaks during his sentencing hearing on Friday. WDIV

Ethan Crumbley, who opened fire and killed four people at Oxford High School in 2021, acknowledged Friday that he is a "really bad person" and said he is trying to do better.

Speaking at his sentencing hearing, Crumbley told the court that he knows he hurt many people and is not trustworthy.

“I am a really bad person. I have done terrible things that no one should ever do," he said.

Crumbley said no one would have been able to stop him from carrying out the shooting because no one knew his plans.

“They did not know and I did not tell them what I planned to do, so they are not at fault of what I’ve done,” he said, specifically naming the school and his parents.

“We are all here because of me today, of what I did," he said.

Whatever the sentence handed down by the judge, Crumbley said, “I do plan to be better.”

He said he wants the people that he hurt to feel like some “justice has been served" and asked the court to give him the sentence the victims' families were asking for.

“I really am sorry, for what I've done, for what I've taken from them. I cannot give it back but I can try my best in the future to help other people and that is what I'll do," Crumbley said.

3:26 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Closing arguments are underway

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

Both parties are making closing arguments at the sentencing hearing of Ethan Crumbley, who killed four people at Michigan's Oxford High School in 2021.

The judge is expected to rule on Crumbley’s sentence later this afternoon. 

Some background: Crumbley pleaded guilty last year to one count of terrorism causing death — a rare conviction in a state court — four counts of first-degree murder and 19 other charges related to the deadly rampage.

The sentencing comes less than two months after a judge ruled the teen was eligible for the harshest possible punishment in Michigan, noting Crumbley’s long “obsession with violence” made rehabilitation unlikely. A lesser sentence of life with the potential for parole could also be handed down.

3:03 p.m. ET, December 8, 2023

Justin Shilling sent a last text to his friends: "I love you guys"

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Justin Shilling
Justin Shilling Family of Justin Shilling

Olivia McMillan described receiving an emotional last text from her friend Justin Shilling on the day a shooter opened fire at Oxford High School in 2021.

McMillan said when her class heard gunshots coming from the hallway, she sent a text to her group chat, which Shilling was a part of.

Shilling texted back that he was in the bathroom with shooter Ethan Crumbley, she said. The last text his friends received from him said, “I love you guys,” she told the court on Friday at Crumbley's sentencing hearing. McMillan later found out her friend was dead.

She said she was thankful to have Shilling as a friend. He always tried to make others laugh, helped with homework and wished his friends luck on their sporting events.

On the day of the shooting, the class initially thought the loud bangs were just someone slamming lockers or pulling a prank in the hall, McMillan said.

“I don’t know when my brain flipped and knew that I was in danger and began to move desks, tables, chairs, filing cabinets to barricade the door,” she said.

For the days after the shooting, McMillan said she still believed Shilling was going to be OK and thought about all of the high school events they had ahead of them.

“The night after the shooting, I sat in my room alone. There wasn’t a future that didn’t have Justin in it. He was going to get better, and he was going to continue to tease me, he was going to go to prom with us, he was going to graduate and walk across the stage — probably brag about all of the honors and awards he was going to get, we were going to celebrate it,” McMillan said.

She said from the day she met Shilling she knew she wanted to be his friend. As the two got closer, McMillan said he became like family. 

“I knew he was going to be in my life for years to come, I just didn’t know it was only going to be as a memory,” McMillan said.