Oxford High shooting relatives at sentencing: Remember the lives, promise lost
- Hours of testimony from victims and survivors chronicle what was lost on Nov. 30, 2021
- Families remember the teens whose potential was destroyed, plead for life in prison for shooter
- Before being sentenced to life in prison, the gunman tells the court ‘I am a really bad person’
The memories came flooding back Friday, amid tears and reflection about what was lost on a terrible afternoon two years ago at Oxford High School.
Madisyn Baldwin was an “old soul” with a contagious smile and a passion for art. Hana St. Juliana loved Christmas, sports and making jewelry. Tate Myre was a star athlete known for his commitment to others. Justin Shilling “always made time to lift others up” and planned to major in business after graduation.
After the four teens were killed in a mass shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021, their families’ lives were never the same, loved ones said in an Oakland County courtroom Friday before the gunman was sentenced to life in prison.
“We are miserable,” Buck Myre, Tate Myre’s father, said Friday. “Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed, ever.”
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St. Juliana, 14, Baldwin, 17, Myre, 16, and Shilling, 17, were murdered by a then-15-year-old classmate who used a gun he received as a present from his parents to kill them and injure seven others during a shooting spree.
The shooter, Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty. Sentencing him to life in prison without possibility for parole, Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwamé Rowe said Crumbley could have chosen to stop at any point, but “continued to walk through the school picking and choosing who was going to die.”
“He chose not to die on that day because he wanted the notoriety,” Rowe said. “The terror that he caused in the state of Michigan and Oxford was a true act of terrorism.”
The sentence came after relatives asked the judge for the maximum penalty, rather than decades of prison with the possibility for parole.
Speaking briefly to the court, Crumbley did not ask for the possibility of parole, telling the court to sentence him to what the families sought “because I want them to be happy, I want them to feel secure and safe.”
“I could not stop myself,” the teen said, adding, “I am a really bad person. I have done terrible things that no one should do. I have lied, been not trustworthy, hurt many people … that’s what I have done, and I don’t deny it, but that’s not what I plan to be.”
The teen’s parents also face involuntary manslaughter charges for allowing their son access to the gun used in the shooting.
Over the course of several hours on Friday, relatives and others testified about broken families, empty seats at the dinner table, joyless holidays, hopeless waits for their child to walk through the door and birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries that would never come.
Relatives said those killed were honors students, athletes, sons, daughters, siblings and students who had kind hearts and big dreams.
This is what they should be remembered for — not merely as victims of gun violence, said Nicole Beausoleil, Madisyn’s mother.
“After that day, she became a statistic, a victim, a planned act of tragedy…How could these now be her associations?” Beausoleil said.
“She will be remembered by her name, a name that is loved unconditionally. One that has no hidden remark. The strong name we gave her: Madisyn.”
Reina St. Juliana, Hana St. Juliana’s older sister, said Hana was her other half and her favorite person. They’d planned to be each other’s maids of honor at their weddings and were excited to play lacrosse together and go on thrifting trips once Reina got her driver license.
“Instead of speaking at her wedding, I spoke at her funeral,” Reina St. Juliana said. “Instead of fish-tailing her hair for a game, I curled her hair in a casket.”
Hana’s father, Steve St. Juliana, said his daughter had “unlimited potential” and continually tried new things. She was just beginning to hit her stride when her life was snuffed out at 14, he said.
“We will never know how many souls she may have touched nor what improvements to people's lives her efforts may have resulted in,” he said.
“These opportunities have been forever eradicated.”
Parents also told of the lasting legacies their children left, including 42 Strong: The Tate Myre Foundation, a peer-to-peer youth mentoring program.
“There's good that's going to come from this, and the good is, kids are going to have a buddy,” Buck Myre said. “They're going to have somebody to lean on.”
Shilling’s parents, Jill Soave and Craig Shilling, said their son’s organ donations saved the lives of multiple people and ensured that at least part of the joy and love he brought to those in his life carries on.
“Justin was happy, humble, hardworking, grateful, stylish, funny, smart, loving, thoughtful and empathic,” Soave said. “He never complained and always made time to lift others up, bringing out the best in everyone who knew and loved him. He didn't deserve to die this way.”
In April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed laws requiring gun owners with minors to securely store their firearms and establishing universal background checks for gun purchases. A month later, she signed related “red flag” legislation allowing court orders to prevent people posing a risk to themselves or others from possessing a gun.
Supporters said the reforms, particularly the safe storage legislation, could prevent minors like Crumbley from accessing firearms.
Other Oxford-related policy measures included allowing schools to install temporary locks on doors without state approval, funding to Oxford High School for its recovery and millions of dollars allocated to school safety assessments, better mapping of school buildings for law enforcement and overall school security.
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