An assistant principal who tried to breathe life into a dying student after a bullet exited his eye.
A 16-year-old who crouched in a bathroom stall as a gunman killed a classmate just feet away, then ordered him out of the stall.
A girl who dropped to her knees and prayed in the line of fire, then saved her friend.
These are the horror stories that concluded the prosecution’s case in an Oakland County courtroom Friday as a judge tries to determine whether confessed school shooter Ethan Crumbley should get life without the possibility of parole for his deadly rampage, or a chance to be free one day.
The defense has argued that Crumbley is capable of being rehabilitated, and deserves the opportunity to prove that, especially given his age: He was 15 when he committed his crime.
The prosecution disagrees, arguing Crumbley should never be free for murdering four students and injuring seven others in a shooting he planned and obsessed about in a journal and cryptic manifesto he recorded on the eve of the massacre.
“The first victim has to be a pretty girl,” he wrote.
His victim was a girl named Phoebe Arthur, who was shot in the face but survived. His last victim was Justin Shilling, who was shot execution-style in a bathroom, while another classmate was crouched in the stall, frantically texting his family.
That classmate was 16-year-old Keegan Gregory, who testified Friday about coming face-to-face with Crumbley, and managing to escape.
‘HELP,’ ‘GUN,’ ‘I’M HIDING IN THE BATHROOM’
Gregory testified that when the shooting started, he was walking down the hallway and stopped to use the bathroom, not knowing what was going on.
“I was using the bathroom and heard shots, really loud. I didn’t believe it was a gun at first, I didn’t know what to think until I peeked out and saw people running,” Gregory testified.
Shocked, he went back into the bathroom, where he encountered Shilling, whom he had never met. Gregory entered a stall.
“I squatted on the toilet,” he said, noting that Shilling told him to do that so no one would see his feet. Shilling did the same.
Both stayed quiet as they used their phones. Gregory texted his family in a group chat.
Gregory’s dad texted back, telling his son to stay down, stay quiet and stay calm.
“I’m terrified,” Gregory wrote.
At one point, Shilling devised a plan to escape. He mouthed and signaled to him that when they heard gunshots get farther away, they were going to run.
But before they knew it, the shooter was in the bathroom. Gregory alerted his family. His dad told him to stay down and not engage, “We love you.”
Then the shooter kicked in the door of the bathroom stall and “stared at us,” Gregory testified, noting the gunman then left the stall.
He said he and Shilling weren’t sure if the gunman was still in the bathroom, so Shilling at first tried to use his phone to look for feet, then bent over and mouthed to Gregory that he was there.
“We just stayed quiet,” he said.
At some point, Gregory testified, the shooter came back into the stall and told Shilling to come out. Gregory said he was still crouching on the toilet and then heard an “extremely loud” shot.
The shooter then came back into the stall and motioned for Gregory to come out, he said.
At some point, Gregory recalled looking at the shooter and saying “Please.”
“He had the gun at his side. He signaled me to go over by Justin’s body,” he recalled.
He saw Justin’s body in a pool of blood around his head — a sight that prompted his next move. He bolted.
“I ran behind his back behind the door,” Gregory testified. “I think when I saw his body, I realized that if I stayed, I was gonna die.
“I just kept running as fast as I could,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe. I was hyperventilating.”
Gregory has a tattoo on his arm with four hearts representing the four victims. One of the hearts has a halo over it. Gregory testified the halo is for Shilling.
“If he didn’t die in there,” Gregory said, “then I’d be dead right now.”
‘It took me months to get the taste of blood out of my mouth’
The most graphic and emotional testimony on Friday came from assistant principal Kristy Gibson-Marshall, who broke down in tears as she talked about how she tried to save Tate Myre’s life in the hallway, where she found him lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
“It was crushing. I had to help him. I had to save him, for his mom,” said Gibson-Marshall, noting she felt the exit wound in the back of his head, and saw that the bullet had exited his eye.
She began to weep.
“I just kept talking to him. I told him that I love him, that I needed him to hang with me,” said Gibson-Marshall, whose testimony brought many to tears in the courtroom, including reporters. “He was blue. When I was giving him breaths, he was getting white, so I kept giving him the breaths. It felt like forever.”
Gibson-Marshall stayed with Myre until police and paramedics arrived, and told them to keep giving him breaths.
The blood still haunts her: “It was all over me,” she said “It took me months to get the taste of blood out of my mouth.”
Gibson-Marshall broke protocol that day to help her students. Rather than locking down — as she was supposed to — she went toward the gunshots.
And encountered Crumbley.
She saw him from a distance, lowering his arm from shoulder height. He had a gun. She walked in his direction, and soon realized it was Crumbley, whom she has known since he was in elementary school.
“‘It couldn’t be Ethan. He wouldn’t do that,’“ she recalled thinking.
“And so I talked to him. I said, ‘Are you OK, what’s going on?’ “
Crumbley didn’t respond. He kept walking, so she went back to help a student on the ground — Tate Myre.
Gibson-Marshall was in the hallway when Crumbley eventually surrendered after exiting a bathroom, where he killed his final victim.
“He came out with his hands up and he was on his knees,” she said, noting police were trying to figure out who he was. He didn’t answer. I said, “His name is Ethan.“
After her testimony, she walked over to Tate Myre’s parents in the courtroom and hugged them. They were all in tears. Crumbley was seen wiping his face with a tissue.
‘I just prayed’
Another prosecution witness was Heidi Allen, who was among the crowd of students that Crumbley first fired upon when he exited a bathroom.
She immediately dropped down and started praying.
“I just prayed and I covered my head because I didn’t know if those were my last moments,” Allen, now 17, testified. “I just closed my eyes.”
When Allen realized the shooter was gone, she opened her eyes and saw two other girls across from her and another girl on the floor down the hall. It was Arthur, the first person Crumbley shot.
More: Oxford teacher shot by Crumbley testifies: ‘Do you know how hard it is to heal from this?’
Allen testified that she helped Arthur into an open, empty classroom next to them and immediately used a door security device that helps prevent anyone from coming inside. She said she knew how to install it because during a school drill a month earlier, a teacher randomly called on her to try installing the device.
She kept reassuring Arthur that she would be OK, while trying herself to stay calm. Allen took her classmate to the middle of the room, saw she had been shot on the left side near her collarbone and neck and started putting pressure on the wounds.
“I started to pray with her because I didn’t know what else to do,” Allen testified. She said she felt she was meant to be there because “there’s no other reason that I’m OK”
Several students around Allen had been shot. Eventually, she heard voices in the hallway, saw a police officer and called for help. An officer helped her get Arthur into a swivel chair and into the hallway, where emergency officials were trying to resuscitate a classmate: Hana St. Juliana, who was killed in the shooting.
Defense shows troubling texts: ‘Mommy can you please be home now’
Also on Friday, the defense presented numerous text messages between Crumbley and his mom as part of a strategy to show that his parents ignored him and left him alone to battle his mental health troubles. This has been a main theme in the case, with both sides arguing that Crumbleys’ parents ignored a troubled child, and cared more about their own lives than their son.
Here are some of the texts that the defense presented in court:
Crumbley: “I don’t like being home alone … Just be here at 11oclock … mommy can you please be home now. Can you please be home.”
He texts again: “I just don’t feel good, that’s all.”
Mom responds at 11 p.m. : “It’s okay buddy. We’re right down the road and the neighbors are home. I’m out with the ski patrol celebrating. It’s a big deal.”
In another text exchange with his mom, Crumbley wrote: “Mommy … The rest of my tooth is coming out please come as quickly as you can.”
Crumbley also texted his mom about hallucinating, eight months before the shooting:
Crumbley: Can you come home now. There is someone in the house I think. Someone walked into the bathroom and flushed the toilet and left the light on …. There is no one in the house though.”
“Dude, my door just slammed. Maybe it’s just my paranoia, but when are you going to get home”
Crumbley: “I cleaned until the clothes started flying off the shelf. This stuff only happens when I’m home alone.”
The defense also presented the notorious text that made international news — the one she sent her son after he got caught at school researching bullets, the day before he carried out the shooting.
“LOL. I’m not mad. You have to learn how not to get caught.”
Texts to a friend: ‘I need help’
The defense also presented text messages between Crumbley and a friend in an effort to show both his mental health issues, and that his parents weren’t helping him.
“I actually asked my dad to take me to the doctor yesterday but he just gave me some pills and told me to suck it up,” Crumbley texted the friend one night.
Crumbley also texted his friend about hearing doors open in the house and someone walking around when no one else was home.
“Like I hear people talking to me and see someone in the distance,” he texted.
Crumbley also texted his friend that he was again going to ask his parents to take him to the doctor: “This time I’m going to tell them about the voices.”
Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in America charged in a school shooting. Their appeal to have the charges struck is pending before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Crumbley’s psychiatrist tells about voices in his head
Dr. Crumbley’s jail psychiatrist, Dr. Fariha Qadir, who visits him once a week for 15 minutes via Zoom, testified Friday that she has not diagnosed the teenager with psychosis, but with major depressive disorder and adjustment disorder with anxiety. She described adjustment disorder as a condition involving a response to a stressor, like a loss in life. She said Crumbley is on an antidepressant, a mood stabilizer and a medication that helps him sleep and treats anxiety.
She first met with Crumbley on Dec. 3, 2021, just days after the shooting, and testified that his condition is treatable with medicine and therapy.
Qadir said she has asked Crumbley about hallucinations, and he told her he hears two voices: one internal, one external. The external voices, she explained, were “very fleeting voices that come and go. It’s a voice that does not interfere much in his daily life,” she said.
The other voices, “his internal thoughts,” are more significant, and Crumbley told her: ‘I can’t get rid of them,’ “ Qadir testified, adding that Crumbley told her the thoughts got worse two weeks before the shooting.
Crumbley ‘has the potential to change’
Dr. Kenneth Romanowski, a corrections expert who has spent decades working with juvenile lifers, testified on behalf of the defense Friday and said that Crumbley can be rehabilitated.
“Everybody has the potential to change, and Mr. Crumbley is no exception to that rule,” Romanowski testified.
Romanowski, who has worked in numerous prisons with violent criminals convicted of horrific crimes, testified that young offenders have a better chance for rehabilitation than others because “their minds are still subject to change.” And even the hardest of criminals are not impossible to rehabilitate, he said, noting he has met criminals who have not changed — but that’s because they didn’t want to.
Romanowski also said he was not aware of the details of Crumbleys’ crimes — only that they were “horrific” — and he still believes even the most horrific criminals can change if they want to.
“I find those facts to be horribly disturbing,” Romanowski said of the Oxford shooting. “But do I think he still has the possibility to change? Yes.”
Crumbley’s hearing resumes Tuesday. Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe will decide his fate after the hearing, which is mandated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juvenile murderers may not be sentenced to life without parole without a “Miller” hearing, named after the 2012 case, Miller v. Alabama.
Support for the community
The Oxford Resiliency Center, a program of Common Ground, has extended its hours through Aug. 1 to provide support for the community because of the traumatic nature of the hearing. The center has added support staff and has therapy dogs on-site. The center, open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., is at 1370 S. Lapeer Road in Oxford. The phone number is 248-653-5511. More information: www.allforoxford.org
Contact Tresa Baldas: email@example.com. Contact Gina Kaufman: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oxford High survivors recount horror of Crumbley’s murderous rampage