Attorneys for Ethan Crumbley on Tuesday seemed to blame the defendant’s parents for a mass shooting that claimed four lives at a Michigan high school in November 2021. On the other hand, prosecutors characterized the defendant as nothing short of pure evil, and alleged that Crumbley spoke of his admiration for Adolf Hitler and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
The dueling descriptions of the defendant’s character and conduct were part of a hearing to determine whether the 15-year-old alleged murderer would serve time leading up to a trial in a juvenile facility or in an adult jail. Prosecutors are asking for the latter; defense attorneys are asking for the former. Crumbley remains in an adult jail cell at present after prosecutors sought that placement in earlier proceedings; the defense has continuously protested it.
Prosecutor Markeisha Washington called the defendant’s “agenda” for the Nov. 30 attack both “specific” and “detailed.” She said Crumbley outlined “who his first victim would be” and “expressed that he would surrender so that he could witness the pain and suffering that he caused.”
Citing Crumbley’s journal and videos recorded leading up to the shooting at Oxford High School, Washington painted a grim and sinister picture of the defendant.
“Despite the defendant’s biological age, he discussed topics and interests well beyond that of an average 15-year-old,” the prosecutor told Judge Kwame L. Rowe. “In a text read with his friend, and in his journal, he outlined a plan to stalk, rape, torture, and ultimately kill a female classmate.”
He expressed delight in torturing a family of baby birds, and he wrote about the joy he received in listening to them squeal as he killed them. He spoke of his admiration for Adolf Hitler and Jeffrey Dahmer — specifically stating, “when you die, you need to be remembered for a long time; doing something to make people think of you until time ends.”
“This shows a sophistication beyond that of an average 15-year-old,” the prosecutor went on. “The entire content must be considered when determining what is in the interest of justice.”
Elsewhere, Washington called the plan to shoot up the high school both “calculated and methodic.”
In cell phone video recorded the night before the Nov. 30 attack, Crumbley “identifies himself as the next school shooter,” Washington said. She also said he “attempts to justify his future actions” in that video.
“He bragged about wearing a mask to the public,” the prosecutor continued. She then called the defendant two-faced:
He enjoyed his dark side. The defendant isn’t who he appears to be. He allows people to see who he wants them to see, and only those close to him, such as his parents, would understand or recognize it. He is fascinated with violence, weapons, and seeing others suffer. He cunningly placed a bird in the boys’ bathroom at Oxford High School, and in his journal, he reveled at how happy he was for not getting caught.
Prosecutors said putting the defendant in a children’s facility would pose a risk to the rehabilitation of other juveniles in the facility.
Attorneys for Ethan Crumbley asserted a mental health element to the allegations levied by prosecutors. They also tacitly blamed the teen’s parents.
“I believe that the evidence will show that in the time leading up to these events that my client was hallucinating, that he was seeing things, he was hearing voices, he was not sleeping, he was extremely anxious, he was not eating properly, and that he had asked his parents to see a therapist,” said defense attorney Paulette M. Loftin. “And at the time of this event, my client was not in any sort of therapy.”
Loftin said Crumbley belonged in what’s known as the Oakland County’s Children’s Village in Pontiac, Mich., and not in a clinic facility in the Oakland County Jail.
The defense attorney decried Crumbley’s incarceration in a “cement cell with a glass door.”
She painted a grim picture of daily life for the accused quadruple murderer: under state law, Crumbley must be kept out of sight and sound from any adults incarcerated in the facility. A jail guard “peers in” on Crumbley every 15 minutes, the attorney said.
“This extreme isolation is actually not beneficial whatsoever and actually harms Mr. Crumbley,” Loftin argued.
Crumbley is said by his defense attorney to have access to a tablet for a few hours each day. He also has phone access but does not know his family’s phone numbers. Loftin said strangers email Crumbley; he responds. He interacts for brief intervals with a case worker and a psychiatrist.
“He does not leave his cell whatsoever” except for a shower or for a move to a visitation booth with attorneys — a status the defense attorney admitted was in part due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The defense attorney called Crumbley “educated” and a “bright young man.”
Loftin said other juveniles charged with murder were housed at the Children’s Village without incident. Prosecutors said the ages and vulnerabilities of Crumbley’s victims should be taken into account by the judge.
After hearing from several witnesses, prosecutor Kelly Collins circled back to the assertion that Crumbley was donning a “mask” in public. She accused the defendant of texting a friend that they were able to remove their “masks” for one another.
“‘The scary thing is: I like being this fucked up,'” Crumbley said to the friend, according to the prosecutor. “That is the kind of person that we are contemplating putting with other juveniles who are much less sophisticated, at risk, that he would gravitate to.”
He talks about in his texts, and then in his journal, about how he wants to explore his ‘darkness’ with birds that he has found — wanting to make them suffer and hear their screams. And he doesn’t stop at the texts. He doesn’t stop at writing in his journal. He goes on to actually record videos of him doing those things, and you’ll hear his voice, you will hear the suffering of the bird, and you will know that it is not just words — it’s not just thoughts — but it’s things that he has set about to do. His word that he uses is that he wants to “torture” those birds. You’ll see the video. You will also see a picture of a separate bird that he decapitated that he writes about in his journals having taken it to journal and is thrilled that he didn’t get caught and finds others foolish or stupid for not catching him. He tempts others with his actions. He reveals them, and the only people who had an opportunity to do anything about it — those who live with him 24/7 — did nothing. If these don’t amount to prior delinquent acts, I don’t know what would, and that is one of the factors that this court is bound to consider.
Collins said Crumbley “contemplated the pros and cons” of dying by suicide in a “blaze of glory” after the alleged attack but decided to remain alive so he could “be remembered forever” like his evil heroes.
On Dec. 17, 2021, Crumbley asked how he would get “fan mail” behind prison walls, Collins told the judge.
“He wants that notoriety,” she said.
Collins said Crumbley spends most of his time on a computer trying to communicate with others — including other juveniles who might “commiserate” with him. Crumbley tells his “fans,” Collins said, to watch his next court appearances on television and tries to convince them that prison affords him an easy life with “nice” deputies and a television.
“That should scare all of us,” Collins said.
Loftin countered that Crumbley once considered calling 911 so he could go to a hospital but feared that his parents would be “pissed.” She again referenced the “voices” Crumbley claimed to be hearing and that he told his parents he needed “treatment.”
“This is someone who was having, in my opinion, a mental health crisis, and no one did a thing,” she said.
She then noted that Crumbley has no prior issues at school.
Judge Rowe did not immediately rule on the defense request to send Crumbley to the Children’s Village.
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