A court in the US state of Michigan has sentenced Ethan Crumbley, now 21, to life imprisonment without parole for killing four of his classmates at his high school in 2021, describing the incident as a "true act of terrorism". Ethan was 15 years old when he shot and killed four of his fellow students at Oxford High School outside Detroit.
The sentence was given after hours of harrowing testimony from the grieving families and friends of the victim students. Crumbley shot dead Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling with a semi-automatic handgun his father bought him as a Christmas gift a few days before the shocking incident that rattled the US. Six other students and a teacher were wounded in the shooting.
Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe rejected defense lawyers' request for the possibility of parole given the severity of the situation. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the incident, marking one of the first US cases that seeks to hold parents accountable for their child's activities.
"This act involved extensive planning, extensive research, and he executed every last one of the things he planned," Rowe said.
Shooter takes responsibility for his actions
Ethan also addressed the judge shortly before the verdict was announced, taking responsibility for his actions and promising to work on becoming a better person regardless of his sentence. "All I want is for the people I hurt to have a final sense of culpability that justice has been served," he said.
The hearing went on for over four hours, where relatives of the victims and survivors detailed their daily struggles to move past the dastardly incident. Some students even said that they have developed anxiety in crowded or enclosed spaces, along with difficulties in maintaining friendships and attending class.
"I will never think back fondly on her high school and college graduations. I will never walk her down the aisle as she begins the journey of starting her own family. I am forever denied the chance to hold her or her future children in my arms," said Steve St Juliana, father of the 14-year-old Hana who was killed in the incident.
Charges include terrorism, first-degree murder
Ethan pleaded guilty in October last year to two dozen counts, including one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder. His parents were also arrested and accused of giving their son easy access to a firearm and ignoring his mental health.
Defense lawyers mentioned his deteriorating mental health as a result of negligence by his parents, causing him to keep a gun in his backpack. He reportedly kept a journal in which he wrote about his desire to see students suffer and contemplated his chances of imprisonment.
Earlier in September, Rowe asserted that Ethan was eligible for life imprisonment without any chance of parole, saying, "This crime is not the result of impetuosity or recklessness. Nor does the crime reflect the hallmarks of youth. Defendant carefully and meticulously planned and carried out the shooting."
The judge also said that Crumbley had downloaded a school map, figured out the likely police response time to a shooting, and researched where Michigan teens are placed in prison. One of the prosecutors, Karen McDonald, said at that time that she hoped the ruling "brings some comfort" to the Oxford community.
(with inputs from Reuters, AP)