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Families of slain students speak at the sentencing of Oxford High School shooter


Families of slain students speak at the sentencing of Oxford High School shooter

Dec 08, 2023 | 12:06 pm ET
By Anna Liz Nichols Lily Guiney
Families of slain students speak at the sentencing of Oxford High School shooter
Oxford High School. | Photo by Anna Gustafson

“Instead of speaking at her wedding as the maid of honor, I spoke at her funeral…instead of fishtailing her hair for a game, I curled her hair in a casket,” said the older sister of Hana St. Juliana, who at age 14, was killed in the mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan in 2021.

Parents and siblings of the four slain Oxford High School students were first to speak at the sentencing of Ethan Crumbley, 17, who on November 30, 2021 opened fire on his fellow students and a teacher.

The shooter, who was 15 at the time, carried out the shooting using a gun bought for him by his parents. He pleaded guilty last year to 24 charges, including one count of terrorism which resulted in death, four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder, and 12 counts of committing felony in possession of a firearm.

The shooter is eligible for a life sentence, but could be sentenced to a minimum of 25 to 40 years.

Life without parole hearing for Oxford school shooter continues, victims provide testimony


Hana’s older sister Reina St. Juliana called her little sister “the greatest gift in life” reflecting on decorating the Christmas tree with her in 2021 shortly before the shooting when she thought to herself how much she was looking forward to celebrating the holidays at Hana’s future family home and imagining her future wedding.

“I refuse to decorate the Christmas tree, as that’s what we do with Hana… I do not want to live without Hana.”

Reina said that a life without parole sentence was “the least that could be done” to ensure the shooter couldn’t cause more pain to more families, she was in common company with other family members of children killed who, one after the other, asked the judge for the maximum sentence, life without parole, which is the highest in Michigan.

Madisyn Baldwin’s mother Nicole Beausoleil spoke about her daughter who was killed by the shooter at age ​​17, describing the memory of the shooting like a “cigarette burn” that will always be a reminder of the loss of her daughter.

After seeing her daughter’s body, Beausoleil said all her denial that her daughter could be gone slipped away.

“I didn’t want to visualize a moment without her. I didn’t want to believe she was gone,” Beausoleil said. “That was not my daughter. Madisyn was far from lifeless.”

Madisyn’s mom adamantly refused to say the shooter’s name, calling him “a waste” whose name will never exit her mouth.

“Your honor, I hope you stamp his fate with whatever fate that might be…to continue to live the life sentence that he researched, that his life sentence is the same as my life sentence I received. A life sentence that I cannot escape from,” Beausoleil said.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Kwame L. Rowe told the family members of another student killed, Tate Myre, 16, that he has become aware of Tate’s positive legacy in the community, known for his kindness.

Tate’s dad, Buck Myre recalled being told of his son’s death in the Meijer manager’s office where the school set up reunification for parents to find their kids.

“Me and my wife are trying to figure out how to save our marriage and save our family. And we didn’t even do anything to each other…We are realizing we are completely miserable, there does not appear to be a way out. So to this day you are winning,” Buck said to the shooter. “But today is a day where the tides change.”

Some of the family members reiterated similar sentiments, that nothing will replace the light and joy their children brought, but with the sentencing Friday, there is an opportunity to talk about their lost loved ones and make sure they are not forgotten.

There’s not much happiness around the holidays, birthdays and other milestones, Craig Shilling told the judge, describing the pain of the loss of his son, another student killed in the shooting, Justin Shilling, 17.

Craig said he felt lucky that he and his son had one of those father son relationships where they would do their favorite activities together: Kayaking, camping and fishing. But those activities don’t hold the same joy they used to.

“There is absolutely no way you can prepare yourself for this level of pain,” Craig said.

In lieu of execution, as Michigan does not have the death penalty, Craig said he feels strongly that the shooter should never be allowed to walk free.

“This is why I’m going to ask you to lock this son of a bitch up for life,” Craig said, then addressing the shooter himself.

“As you rot away lamenting over your wasted life, you should take the brunt of the fact that all though you may have taken four lives, the selfless gesture of organ donation by my son saved at least five lives, therefore shattering your delusions of grandeur and effectively nullifying all you feel you’ve accomplished,” Craig said.

Justin’s mom, Jill Soave added that Justin was selfless, in his last moments he protected another student’s life, Keegan, and with all the lives he saved with organ donation, his legacy will live on forever, while the shooter “does not even exist”.

“You did not win. You’re not famous,”Soave said. “If you were really that lonely, that miserable, that lost, and you really needed a friend, Justin would have been your friend if you had only asked him.”

Keegan Gregory, who hid in a bathroom stall with Justin Shilling and listened from behind a door as he was shot, managed to narrowly escape the shooter and run to safety. He said that since the shooting, his family has moved away from Michigan, and that it’s been difficult to make new friends and trust people at his new school. 

Gregory said that he feels survivor’s guilt for making it out of that bathroom when Justin couldn’t.

“I almost feel guilty about being alive, knowing that Justin’s family is living in grief.”

Molly Darnell, the English teacher who was shot in the arm through her classroom door, said that there is “no forgiveness” for the shooter.

“You intended to leave my husband a widower and my children motherless,” Darnell said after recalling the memory of the shooter raising his gun to her.

Kylie Ossege and Rylie Franz, two students who were shot and injured, recounted painful surgeries and long recovery periods endured to save their lives after Nov. 30, 2021. Ossege suffered an injury to the spinal cord and she had to relearn how to stand and brush her teeth, dashing her hopes for a collegiate career in competitive horseback riding. 

Ossege said that while she laid on the ground next to Hana, she realized she had been shot and was comforting Hana, stroking her hair until help arrived.

“I kept repeating my mom’s phone number to make sure my brain was functioning,” Ossege said. “I was creating math problems in my head and solving them to make sure I wasn’t dying.”

Franz, who was shot in the neck, said that pieces of her were “shattered” after that day. But in spite of the long-lasting impact of the shooting on her mental health, she said she refuses to be defined by the shooter’s actions.

“Every day I choose not to allow what a selfish individual decided to do to break me,” Franz said. “I, Riley Franz, am a survivor of gun violence. I, Riley Franz, am a survivor of a terrible epidemic caused by a broken system. But I refuse to be known as a victim at the hands of an individual with no regard for others. His selfishness will not consume my identity.”

This is a developing story, follow along Michigan Advance for the rest of the sentencing