A hearing to help determine Ethan Crumbley’s sentence for murdering four fellow students and injuring seven other people at Oxford High School in November 2021 took yet another dramatic turn Tuesday as Crumbley’s lawyers showed a video of Crumbley in jail, breaking down, crying and yelling:
“Why didn’t you stop it, God? Why didn’t you stop it when it happened? I’m sorry! I’m sorry, God!”
(Watch Crumbley’s hearing below.)
‘Exactly how psychosis works’
“What we just witnessed — someone saying, ‘God, why didn’t you stop it?’ That’s exactly how psychosis works,” testified psychologist Colin King. “Somehow you don’t understand the outcome of the consequences. He’s having a panic attack and a break with reality.”
Crumbley’s lawyer, Paulette Loftin, showed multiple videos, including bodycam footage of Crumbley in jail crying out in distress. In the footage in several instances, he’s strapped to a chair. In one case, a hood covered his face. Oakland County deputies said Tuesday that the hood is used to protect jail workers from spit.
In another video Crumbley says over and over, “He didn’t stop it,” and “You didn’t stop it.”
While the videos were shown in court, Crumbley kept his eyes shut.
Psychologist: Crumbley ‘can be considered a feral child’
King is an expert in mental health and brain injuries who has testified in about 25 juvenile lifer cases. He testified that a culmination of childhood trauma, neglectful and abusive parents, a lack of acknowledgment by the school system and mental health issues led to the events of Nov. 30, 2021.
Crumbley couldn’t make sense of what was happening to him mentally and had no one to turn to for help, King testified.
King spent more than 22 hours over six sessions with Crumbley about a year after the shooting, he said, producing a 70-page report on the teenager, reviewed by sociologist Malcolm Cort. King’s review examined Crumbley’s childhood, the influence of his parents, Oxford’s school system and the events leading up to the shooting, including the death of Crumbley’s dog. The teen, he said, was the one who had to dispose of the animal.
According to King, Crumbley has a major depressive disorder with psychosis, anxiety and features of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“He is mentally ill,” King said.
But, he stressed, he is “absolutely” capable of rehabilitation, noting that the brain has the ability to generate new pathways. For example, he said, stroke victims can learn how to walk and talk again.
“Ethan’s brain is still maturing, and will not reach full maturity for another 10 years,” King testified. gene
King also discussed the phenomenon of the “feral child” in reference to Crumbley, defining a feral child as someone isolated from others, turning into a misfit of society, with a lack of social cues.
“Psychologically and socially, he can be considered a feral child,” King testified.
King described the influence of Crumbley’s parents as a “litany of horrible abuse.”
James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with involuntary manslaughter, the first parents in America to be criminally charged in a school shooting. Their appeal to have the charges struck down is pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.
King also testified about Crumbley’s obsession with torturing and killing baby birds. Prosecutors showed a video Crumbley made of himself killing a bird, and text messages to a friend about wanting to do it again.
“He wanted them to feel the pain that he was feeling inside,” King said. “He was actually speaking to them in a different tone of voice, almost as a parent talking to a child, almost a reflection of his mental impairment.”
Crumbley expected backpack to be searched
King’s testimony also touched on Crumbley’s backpack, which was never checked at school on the morning of the shooting, and that Crumbley expected that it would be. Crumbley and his parents were called to the school office shortly before the rampage over disturbing drawings and writing that a teacher reported.
Crumbley explained to King that after he was called down to his office, he left his backpack in his classroom and then a school administrator went to retrieve his backpack.
“(Crumbley said) for the first time in his life, he felt relieved and he just knew the sheriffs were going to burst into the office and arrest him,” King testified, noting Crumbley reminded him of a student who was accused of using drugs, and remembered school officials searching his locker.
“He felt fairly sure that they were going to search his backpack,” King testified before suggesting the school administrator mishandled the situation. “All he had to do was unzip that backpack, but he didn’t.”
‘Constant family discord and dysfunction’
A video of Crumbley collapsing in a diner in 2020 — one year before the shooting — was shown in court Tuesday morning, suggesting that the boy may have suffered a brain injury. He collapsed on a tile floor, and could not get up on his own, according to a psychologist’s testimony.
The parents told the diner owner not to call 911, King testified.
Crumbley also disclosed to the psychologist that he was once out with his parents picking strawberries and he fell. All that he remembers was regaining consciousness. He asked his parents what happened. Crumbley told King that his parents said he suffered a blow to the head. He was not taken to a hospital.
Much of the psychologist’s testimony has focused on Crumbley’s parents, and how, he said, they did not get him help when he needed it.
“What stood out to me was that he told his parents that he was hearing voices, and that he needed to see a therapist,” King testified. “And it never happened.”
King also testified that there seemed to be discord between the parents.
“There (were) frequent harsh discussions about infidelity, suicide and which parent Ethan needed to choose in the event that they separated,” King testified.
“There was constant family discord and dysfunction. There was no indication that he was ever taken to a doctor,” King testified.
The issue to be decided from the hearing is whether Crumbley is eligible to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole — or whether he will be eligible for release one day. Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe is expected to issue a written ruling shortly after the hearing and will schedule formal sentencing after that.
Young Crumbley left alone, sought neighbors’ help
The morning began with testimony about Crumbley’s childhood, and how he was left alone often starting when he was 6 years old.
According to Colin King, a psychologist who met Crumbley one year after the shooting, Crumbley, at the age of 6, would wander to neighbors’ homes when there was a thunderstorm, tell them he was afraid and would ask for help.
King also testified about text messages he reviewed from Crumbley to his mom when he was 10 years old. He would be home alone, and text her, but she would not respond, he testified.
“I saw that as early as age 10, even age 6, there were some issues,” King testified.
“In my interviews, he explained that he spent countless hours watching various adult games,” he testified. “He also spent an inordinate amount of time going to websites (with) graphic scenes. He began to fantasize being part of those scenes.”
The hearing is mandated by a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama that juvenile murderers may not be automatically sentenced to life without parole without a hearing. The hearings, such as Crumbley’s, are called Miller hearings.
More: School shooting video and Ethan Crumbley’s own words — ‘I am the demon’ — shock courtroom
More: Oxford High survivors recount horror stories as murderer Ethan Crumbley’s fate is decided
Last week’s hearing was deeply emotional and disturbing, with law enforcement officers describing the pain of walking past wounded students in their mission to find Crumbley; survivors telling about trying to save students; a teacher describing being shot in the arm; and a student testifying about being face-to-face with Crumbley and witnessing him killing his last victim.
Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org; Lily Altavena: email@example.com. Mandi Wright contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Hearing on Ethan Crumbley’s life sentence convenes for 3rd day