Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, file
SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — A teenager accused of killing four students at a Michigan high school will pursue an insanity defense, his attorneys said in a notice filed Thursday as he, his parents and school officials faced a new trial for the attack at Oxford High School.
The notice, listed in a case summary, is expected to lead to mental health checks for 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, who is charged as an adult with murder and other crimes for the shooting, which also injured six other students and a teacher. . The experts will examine whether the teenager understood the wrongfulness of his conduct on the day of the shooting.
The lawsuit, meanwhile, was announced on behalf of the parents of Tate Myre, who was killed Nov. 30, and other students who witnessed the shooting. He alleges negligence by school officials and Crumbley’s parents during the attack.
“We are sad and heartbroken – our lives have changed forever,” William Myre told a news conference. “Our family will never be the same. We’re not well. All we do is walk around the house and think about Tate. We think about him every day. We sit in his room. We’re listening to his playlist on Spotify. We’re not doing well, but we’ll find a way to get through this together.”
New lawsuit names school officials, suspect and parents for attack
The lawsuit, which seeks at least $25,000, names the dean of students at Oxford High School, two counselors and three teachers as defendants. Crumbley and his parents are also named defendants.
The Associated Press sent out an email Thursday morning seeking comment from the school district.
The suspect’s parents are charged with intentional, reckless and negligent driving that led to the mass shooting. Staff and teachers at Oxford High School are accused of gross negligence which led to the shooting by not removing the shooter from the school building sooner.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court on behalf of Tate Myre’s parents, William and Sheri. Chad and Meghan Gregory, whose son Keegan was hiding in the school bathroom with Justin Shilling when Shilling was shot and killed, are also named as plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was also filed on behalf of Lauren Aliano, whose daughters, Sophia Kempen and Grace Kempen, were hiding in classrooms during the shooting.
Ethan Crumbley is being held in the Oakland County Jail.
The opinion filed Thursday by his attorneys will lead to reviews by the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry and experts retained by the defense and the prosecution. Judge Kwame Rowe could also order a review by another expert.
“That’s entirely appropriate. I doubt that comes as a surprise to anyone,” said Margaret Raben, a Detroit-area defense attorney not involved in the case. “This is all going to take time. The forensic center is jammed, jammed, jammed with work.”
A judge will decide if an insanity defense can be made
Once the reports are received, it will be up to the judge to decide whether an insanity defense can proceed, Raben said.
Under Michigan law, if someone is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are not free. They should be referred to a state psychiatric center for custody and further evaluation.
Someone who is found guilty but still suffers from a mental illness would be sentenced to prison, but with recommendations for treatment.
The AP left a voicemail Thursday afternoon seeking comments from Ethan Crumbley’s attorney, Paulette Michel Loftin, about the insanity defense notice.
The prosecutor’s office said a request to assess Ethan Crumbley’s criminal responsibility from his attorney was expected and was standard procedure.
School officials became concerned for Ethan Crumbley the day before the shooting, when a teacher saw him searching his phone for ammunition. Jennifer Crumbley was contacted and then told her son in a text: ‘Lol. I’m not mad at you. You gotta learn not to get caught,’ says Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald .
On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a note on Ethan’s desk and took a picture. It was a drawing of a gun pointed at the words, “Thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” McDonald said in December.
The drawing also depicted a person who looked like he had been shot twice and was bleeding. “My life is useless” and “The world is dead”, were written.
The gun used in the shooting had been purchased days earlier by James Crumbley and their son had full access to it, authorities said.
McDonald said James and Jennifer Crumbley committed ‘flagrant’ acts, ranging from buying a gun on Black Friday and making it available to Ethan Crumbley to resisting his dismissal from the school when they were called in hours before the shooting.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were later charged with manslaughter.
Detroit-area attorney Ven Johnson, who is representing the parents in the lawsuit filed on Thursday, said Ethan Crumbley knew what he was doing and “he was clearly upset” but his parents did nothing .
Witness remains traumatized by shooting, mother says
Chad Gregory spoke at Thursday’s press conference about what his son witnessed during the shooting.
Keegan Gregory was texting his family from a bathroom stall where he and Shilling were hiding.
“He was in that bathroom for five minutes,” Chad Gregory said. “He was in there with a shooter who just killed, hurt, hurt. Justin gave him a plan that ‘if we get the chance, we’ll get away’.”
“He called them one by one and Justin was the first,” Chad Gregory said, adding that after Shilling was shot, Keegan was able to flee the bathroom.
Two months later, Keegan remains traumatized, Meghan Gregory said.
“He’s a long way from going back to school, let alone functioning like a normal 15-year-old,” she said. “We need to check the doors. We need to check under the beds.”
The school, in Oakland County, is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit. It reopened on Monday with its interior remodeled since the shooting.
In December, Jeffrey and Brandi Franz filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court and county circuit court seeking $100 million each against the district. Their 17-year-old daughter, Riley, was shot in the neck. Her 14-year-old sister, Bella, a ninth grader, was next to her when she was shot.
Their lawsuit says school officials and high school staff did not do enough to prevent the shooting and protect the students.