Judge hears arguments over where suspected Oxford High School shooter should be held

Lawyers for Ethan Crumbley want him moved from Oakland County Jail to Children’s Village

Ethan Crumbley in court on Feb. 22, 2022. (WDIV)

OXFORD, Mich. – Lawyers for Ethan Crumbley and prosecutors made their arguments Tuesday about whether the suspected Oxford High School shooter should be held in jail or the Oakland County Children’s Village.

No decision was reached Tuesday (Feb. 22), but the two sides spoke to three witnesses during a nearly three-hour court proceeding.

Purpose of hearing

“The purpose of this hearing is to determine solely where the defendant should be placed during the pendency of this case -- whether or not he should be placed at the Oakland County Jail or whether or not he should be returned to the Children’s Village, where the case originally started off at before he was charged as an adult,” Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame L. Rowe said.

Prosecutors argue that Crumbley should remain in the Oakland County Jail. They think he’s a “menace” to other juveniles at Oakland County Children’s Village and that he can be effectively and safely held at the jail.

Ethan Crumbley in court on Feb. 22, 2022. (WDIV)

The defense argues that Crumbley should be returned to the Children’s Village.

“This extreme isolation is actually not beneficial whatsoever and actually harms Mr. Crumbley,” his defense said. “It is essentially a cement cell with a glass door, and because the rule is that he has to be out of sight and sound from adults, he has very little interaction with anyone.”

Prosecutor arguments

Prosecutors argued that despite being 15 years old, Crumbley’s mental maturity and interests warrants incarceration at the Oakland County Jail.

“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,” the prosecutor said. “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 that will make people think of you until time ends.’”

The prosecution said Crumbley had a specific and detailed agenda leading up to the shooting on Nov. 30. In his journal, he talked about the type of gun he needed, who his first victim would be and ultimately expressed that he would surrender so he could witness the pain and suffering that he caused, according to prosecutors.

In a video retrieved from his phone the night before the shooting, he identified himself as “the next school shooter,” prosecutors said.

“To place this defendant with other at-risk juveniles who are presumably the same age has his victims would be contrary to the rehabilitation of those at Children’s Village and pose a potential risk of harm to their safety,” she argued.

While Crumbley didn’t have any documented juvenile history, the prosecutor pointed to his “antisocial behavior” and called it “very concerning.”

“The evidence will show that he bragged about wearing a mask to the public,” she said. “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.”

She said at the jail, Crumbely has access to television, a tablet, games and books. He receives mail and has a commissary account, she said.

“The court is to consider what is in the interest of justice, not what is in the best interest of the juvenile,” the prosecutor concluded.

Defense arguments

Crumbley’s defense argued that while he can use a tablet for a couple of hours per day, he hasn’t been able to use the phone because he doesn’t have the numbers for any family members.

They said he isn’t getting the proper care and attention he needs in the Oakland County Jail.

“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,” his defender said. “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.”

The defense also based arguments on whether or not he’s getting proper daily schooling at the jail.

Witness: case worker

The first witness called to the stand was Christina Belling, an inmate case worker at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

Belling said she is the case worker for Crumbley and was assigned to him the day he came in: Dec. 1, 2021.

At first, she met with him at least once daily for 5-10 minutes, or somethings longer, depending on how much they had to cover, she said.

“I assess for mental health issues,” Belling said.

She is not meeting with him daily anymore because he came off what they call “constant watch.” Now, they meet approximately twice a week, according to Belling.

She doesn’t meet with any other inmates more than once a week. She said she meets with Crumbley more often because of his housing and because he’s a juvenile.

If he needed medical treatment for any reason, it would be provided to him at the jail, she said.

Witness: manager of Children’s Village

Heather Calcaterra, the manager of Oakland County Children’s Village, said if Crumbley returns he would be housed in the facility’s detention area. That area can hold up to 60 people who are typically between the ages of 11 and 17, but could be older or younger.

The detention area is for people who are being held and awaiting court dates. Their crimes range from drug offense, to joyriding, to retail fraud, to assault, Calcaterra said.

She said the detention area can be for people facing discipline for everything from nonviolent crimes up to the most violent crimes.

Currently there are 38 people in secure detention. None are there on a charge of murder, Calcaterra said.

She said the secure detention area is one large building divided into three separate units -- two for males, one for females. Officials try to separate males based on age and cognitive ability.

Each unit has a separate hallway, but they all converge into one main school hall, according to Calcaterra.

Each Children’s Village resident has their own individual room with a door. There are cement slabs, and mattresses are brought in during sleeping hours. They’re typically in their rooms from about 8:30 p.m. until 7 a.m.

The rest of the time, residents are either in class, a cafeteria-type location, a courtyard, a gymnasium, or a day room for board games, cards and television.

On a typical day, Calcaterra said Children’s Village residents wake up around 7 a.m., go to the clean-up room for hygiene, eat breakfast, then attend school. After school, they have some recreation and quiet time and homework time before dinner. After dinner, they have some more quiet time before hygiene and bed.

Witness: Oakland County captain

Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Cpt. Thomas Vida said he’s responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Oakland County Jail, including supervision of employees.

Vida described Crumbley’s arrangements at the jail. His cell is cement with a glass front door and a window. There is a single bunk with a small half-partition wall for privacy and a toilet, he said.

Crumbley is allowed to have personal effects in his cell and has purchased some commissary, as of late, according to Vida. He had paper, pencils and books, Vida said.

Since he arrived, Crumbley has been under “constant watch,” which means a deputy is staffed directly in front of Crumbley to make sure his not hurting himself.

Crumbley is in an area where he doesn’t have contact with any of the adult inmates, Vida said.


About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.