Ethan Crumbley, accused Oxford High School shooter, to pursue insanity defense

Lawyers for Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old charged with the shootings at Oxford High School in November 2021, said the teen is planning to pursue an insanity defense.

According to court filings filed in Oakland County, Crumbley's defense will be that he was at a limited mental capacity at the time of the offense. 

"The defense attorney has to prove that the defendant suffers from a mental illness," said Dr. Gerald Sheiner, who has been hired by attorneys suing the school in a civil case. "Under the law, the term mental illness means substantial disorder of thought in mood, severe major depressive disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia, or some sort of psychosis."

He said that must interfere with knowing the difference between right and wrong.

FOX 2 spoke with the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office who said that this will start the process to get Crumbley in for a psychological evaluation. As of Thursday, it has not yet been conducted.

Crumbley was charged as an adult with the murder of four students, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17. According to authorities, Crumbley shot and killed the four students with a 9 mm Sig Sauer. 

Crumbley is charged with one count of terrorism, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder, and 12 counts of possession of a firearm while committing a felony in connection with the school shooting that killed four students and injured seven other people, including a teacher.

RELATED: Ethan Crumbley charged as adult

Crumbley is being held in the adult facility but is kept away from general population, meaning he doesn't see or even hear any adult inmates. Included in the adult inmates are his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley who each have each been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. 

He was last in court last week for an evaluation regarding his placement and if a juvenile facility was a better placement for the minor. 

Also on Thursday, attorney Ven Johns announced lawsuits filed against the Crumbley family and school officials. Tate Myre's family joined the lawsuit, which claims three teachers had direct contact with Ethan while he violated multiple school policies, like looking up ammunition and videos of shootings. According to Johnson, the teachers failed to follow the proper protocols under a Michigan law called the child protection act, which guarantees the safety welfare of all children.

The Oxford High School shooting

Ethan Crumbley's alleged rampage began in the early afternoon of Nov. 30, shortly following a meeting between himself, his parents, and a school counselor that had received a report of disturbing drawings made by the teenager.

The suspected firearm that Ethan used in the shooting had been purchased as part of Black Friday sale days before Nov. 30. According to Prosecutor Karen McDonald, the firearm - a semiautomatic 9-millimeter Sig Sauer handgun - James Crumbley had bought the gun on Nov. 26.

A store employee confirmed with the prosecution that Ethan was present at the time of the purchase.

Prior to that purchase, a teacher at Oxford High School had alerted the district that she saw Ethan searching for ammunition on his cell phone. On the day of the shooting, a separate teacher came across a note on Ethan's desk with a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words "the thoughts won't stop, help me."

In another part of the note, the words above a bullet read "blood everywhere."

In the weeks that followed, McDonald would release more evidence of Ethan's drawings. They offer a window into the shooter's mental state at the time. 

MORE: 'Ethan don't do it': Parents of Oxford High School suspect sent messages during shooting

Following the discovery of the drawings, school administrators met with Ethan and his parents. Both declined to take their son home and were encouraged to seek medical treatment for him immediately. 

A few short hours later, Ethan is allegedly walked out of a bathroom and started shooting.

Ethan Crumbley charged

Ethan was charged an adult on Dec. 1. He was arraigned on 24 counts, including first-degree murder, assault with intent to murder, terrorism, and possession of a firearm.

His attorney entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment. 

MORE: Prosecutor 'doesn't have words' after watching Oxford High School video

While the murder charges track with similar cases of mass shooters, the count alleging terrorism is a novel approach made possible by a law enacted after 9/11.

The state’s 2002 anti-terrorism law defines a terroristic act as one intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to affect the conduct of a government through intimidation or coercion.

McDonald admitted that it wasn't a "typical charge" for the crime. But "what about all the children who ran, screaming, hiding under desks? What about all the children at home right now, who can’t eat and can’t sleep and can’t imagine a world where they could ever step foot back in that school? Those are victims, too, and so are their families and so is the community. The charge of terrorism reflects that."

The Oakland County Sheriff supported the charge "100%."

Ethan was ordered to be held without bond.

He was also assigned his own defense counsel: Paulette Michel Loftin. 

Probable cause conference delayed

Both the prosecution and the defense requested more time to review evidence during Ethan's first court appearance since his arraignment. 

A judge delayed the conference until Jan. 7, citing both the holidays and the totality of evidence that still needed to be reviewed at the time.

During the hearing, assistant prosecutor Marc Keast stated that the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office had turned over more than 500 items of discovery to the defense but also received a flash drive from the sheriff containing 340 more videos and interviews on Monday alone.

Discovery is the evidence and information that the prosecution has gathered in the case and is obligated to turn over to the defense. Both attorneys must have access to the same material before probable cause and preliminary hearings can move forward in court.

Attorney Deborah McKelvy was assigned Ethan's ad litem - which is someone independent of a defendant's legal interest and only focuses on Ethan. She requested that the defendant be moved to Children's Village in Pontiac as he could reportedly hear other inmates in the Oakland County jail.

A judge declined to move Ethan but did request his confinement meet the statutory guidelines while in the facility. 

Ethan Crumbley waives preliminary hearing

On Jan. 7, Crumbley was in court for a probable cause conference where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. By doing so, that sent the case directly to circuit court.

Last week, Crumbley was arraigned in circuit court on the murder and terrorism charges and a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.