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Oxford High School shooter could face life prison sentence in December even as a minor

The Michigan teenager who killed four students in the 2021 Oxford High School shooting when he was 15 is eligible for life imprisonment without parole, a judge ruled Friday.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, is set to be sentenced in Oakland County court on Dec. 8. where he will either receive a life sentence or a minimum of 25 to 40 years and a maximum of 60 years.

In Michigan, adults convicted of first-degree murder automatically receive life sentence but since Crumbley was 15 during the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting, the decision was left up to Judge Kwamé Rowe during the Miller hearing.

Ethan Crumbley stands with his attorneys, Paulette Loftin and Amy Hopp during his hearing at Oakland County Circuit Court, Aug. 1, 2023 in Pontiac, Mich.
Ethan Crumbley stands with his attorneys, Paulette Loftin and Amy Hopp during his hearing at Oakland County Circuit Court, Aug. 1, 2023 in Pontiac, Mich.

After weeks listening to attorneys clash over the teen's mental health and witnesses recall that traumatic day, Rowe announced Crumbley could face Michigan's harshest possible punishment without an eventual opportunity for freedom. The judge said his actions were not impetuous or reckless but "meticulously planned and carried out."

"This was not an impulsive decision, nor was he peer pressured," Rowe said over a video conference. "He methodically walked through the school and decided who would live or die."

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Rowe added he found only a "slim" chance for rehabilitation for Crumbley. The judge disagreed with psychologist Colin King's assessment that the gunman was a "feral child," according to the Associated Press. Defense lawyers argued Crumbley was in a spiraling state after being neglected by his parents, who gave him the gun as a Christmas gift and let him use it at a shooting range.

"His general home life, while not ideal, was also not terrible," Rowe said, according to AP. "Despite his parents' shortcomings, defendant appeared to have a loving and supportive family. … In the defendant's own words, his childhood was good."

What factors are considered in a Miller hearing?

The U.S. Supreme Court holds that in order for juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole a Miller hearing must occur. The judge considers multiple factors during a Miller hearing, such as:

  • The minor's home life, family environment and character

  • The minor’s age, background and mental and emotional development

  • The minor's record while incarcerated

  • The circumstances of the crime, including the extent of the minor's involvement

  • The minor’s ability to be rehabilitated

See also: California man arrested, accused of killing mother by poisoning her with fentanyl

Prosecutor hopes community finds comfort in life sentence

Prosecutor Karen McDonald who is seeking a life sentence, commended all the teachers and students who testified during which said she hopes the Rowe's ruling "brings the victims, their families and the Oxford community some comfort."

Crumbley listened to the ruling while in the county jail. His attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.

Gunman killed four people and injured seven others in 2021

During the school shooting, Crumbley killed Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling in Oxford, Michigan, which is about 40 miles north of Detroit. He also left six students and a teacher wounded.

He pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes on Oct. 24, 2022. He admitted he wanted to cause panic and terror and detailed the planned attack in his journal.

On the day of the shooting, both the teen and his parents spoke with school staff after a teacher noticed a violent drawing. Crumbley was allowed to stay. Staff did not know he had a gun in his backpack.

Buck Myre, left, and Sheri Myre parents of slain son Tate Myre, listen to testimony as their son's killer, Ethan Crumbley appears in the Oakland County courtroom on Aug. 18, 2023,
Buck Myre, left, and Sheri Myre parents of slain son Tate Myre, listen to testimony as their son's killer, Ethan Crumbley appears in the Oakland County courtroom on Aug. 18, 2023,

The gunman's parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley were present during the Friday hearing. The two have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for four students who their son killed.

Contributing: Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Michigan teen who killed four students could face life prison sentence