The 17-year-old who gunned down four Michigan schoolmates two years ago will likely die behind bars after a judge on Friday sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole for unleashing a "true act of terrorism."
Oakland County Judge Kwamé Rowe imposed the maximum sentence against Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 when he opened fire Nov. 30, 2021, at Oxford High School.
Rowe said he spent about 36 hours reading statements from survivors and others affected by Crumbley's crimes.
"Unfortunately this is what the defendant wanted, as he wrote in his journal. He wanted to see the impact of his crime," Rowe said. "He chose not to die on that day because he wanted the notoriety. The terror that he caused in the state of Michigan and in Oxford is a true act of terrorism."
Thirty-one victim impact statements were heard in court Friday, nearly all of them delivered personally by loved ones of victims or others who still bear emotional scars.
Rowe said he was particularly horrified by the murders of Shilling, who was made to kneel before being gunned down, and St. Juliana, who had already been wounded when Crumbley opened fire at close range “to finish the job.”
“That’s an execution, that is torture,” Rowe said.
Crumbley did not appear to show any reaction when Rowe sentenced him to life.
His lawyers had asked the court to impose a sentence that could have led to their client's freedom in his low-70s, more than a half-century from now.
Crumbley spoke briefly to the court and took responsibility for the murders while promising to become a better person while behind bars.
"I am a really bad person. I’ve done terrible things that no one should ever do," he said. "I’ve hurt many people and that’s what I’ve done, and I’m not denying that but that’s not who I plan to be."
Although he was convicted of first-degree murder — a crime that would automatically make an offender eligible for life without parole — Crumbley's age led to a separate hearing to determine whether that sentence would be warranted.
Rowe determined this past September that Crumbley didn’t show potential for rehabilitation and that his crimes didn’t bear “hallmarks of youth” and that he could therefore be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Under state law, the judge could have instead sentenced him to a minimum term of 25 to 40 years in prison because he was under 18 when he committed felony murder, prosecutors said in a motion seeking life in prison.
Baldwin's mother, Nicole Beausoleil, said she takes some solace that Crumbley didn't end his life that day, as many mass killers do, so he can suffer a lifetime behind bars.
"To the waste that took my daughter’s life that name will never come out of my mouth. That life will cease to exist to me and just like trash, it will be forgotten," Beausoleil told the court. "I don’t wish death upon you, but hope the thoughts consume you."
Craig Shilling, the father of victim Justin Shilling, said golfing, bowling, camping, kayaking, hunting and fishing with his son were among their favorite pastimes. The grieving dad said he still struggles to grasp how he'll never do those activities with him again.
"In lieu of absolute execution, I feel strongly that the individual should never be allowed to walk among his peers again," Craig Shilling told the court. "This is why I’m going to ask you to lock this son of a b---- off for the rest of his pathetic life."
Kylie Ossege, now a student at Michigan State University, recalled being with her friend Hana St. Juliana, when they were both shot that day.
As she was on the ground and bleeding out, Ossege said she did math problems in her head just to stay conscious and hopefully alive.
"It has been 738 days of constant physical and mental pain," Ossege said. "It’s been 738 days of living with PTSD scared of the thought of someone hurting me again. It has been 738 days of living with survivor’s guilt, knowing that I could not save Hana St. Juliana."
Parents and loved ones of victims cried over all the opportunities lost when Crumbley opened fire with a weapon allegedly purchased for him by his parents.
“He took four kids’ opportunities to grow into incredible young men and women, and he should never have the opportunity to see the light,” Tate Myre’s brother Trent said.
Crumbley, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, appeared to have his head down or was looking away from the lectern throughout much of Friday's emotional hearing.
Several times during her address to the court, Baldwin’s friend Madeline Johnson challenged Crumbley to look at her as she spoke.
Baldwin enjoyed doodling on gum wrappers and Johnson wore a T-shirt with one of those drawings on it.
“She said that it was the two of us as dinosaurs, best friends, even in the prehistoric times,” Johnson said.
The witness insisted that Baldwin would have befriended Crumbley, had he only reached out.
“She would have treated you with nothing but kindness, had you not killed her,” she said. “I’m not sure how much emotion you’re capable of feeling but I hope you regret it. And I hope it eats away at you.”
Virtually everyone at Oxford High School has been left with deep emotional wounds, said Catherine Waymaster, the mother of two students on campus that day.
Her daughter was only feet away from where the shooting began and she “chose to arm herself with the star from the top of the classroom Christmas tree to use as a stabbing device” had Crumbley entered.
Waymaster’s son befriended Crumbley and occasionally played video games with him.
“The defendant would help him with homework in class,” she said. “My son trusted him. My son trusted you. Now my son trusts no one.”
At a post-court news conference, many of the victims’ family members said they felt Crumbley’s apology was “insincere.”
“It was a very unanimous feeling that it was insincere,” Craig Shilling said, referring to Crumbley’s statements.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said told reporters she spoke to the victims following the hearing and said, “no one’s celebrating” as “it’s not a moment to celebrate. It’s tragic.”
“We are comforted that there is some sense of peace and closure. But I think what you also learned today was this doesn’t ... bring an end to their pain,” McDonald said.
They had been set to stand trial on Jan. 23, but their requests for separate trials have been granted, most likely pushing those proceedings further down the calendar.
In his comments to the court Friday, Ethan Crumbley specifically absolved school officials and his parents, saying they shouldn't be blamed for the bloodshed.
“My actions were because of what I chose to do. I could not stop myself. I am the one who led to why we are here today,” he said. “They did not know and I did not tell them what I planned to do so they are not at fault.”