The alleged teen shooter accused of killing four students and injuring seven others during a mass shooting at Oxford High School last November is expected to be back in court Jan. 7 for a probable cause conference.
It'll be the first court appearance for 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley of the new year, who was arraigned on murder and terrorism charges a day after he allegedly shot up the school.
Crumbley's first court appearance was rescheduled by a judge after both the prosecution and defense requested more time to comb through the mountains of evidence from the shooting.
Ethan Crumbley mug shot (Oakland County Sheriff's Office)
The Oxford community is still mourning the tragedy that struck Nov. 30. The high school released a plan yesterday that outlines the first day of school since the shooting. Meanwhile, major court cases involving both the younger Crumbley and his two parents loom large for the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office.
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.
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.
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 back in court Friday
Ethan's court date is scheduled for 9 a.m.
The probable cause conference is the first chance for a defendant's attorney to argue on their behalf. It also gives an opportunity for the prosecution to unveil more evidence it plans to cite in the event of a trial.
PCCs are held only in felony cases and typically follow an arraignment. It's not unusual for big cases like Ethan Crumbley to see the first meeting rescheduled. This is where plea deals can be accepted and modifications to a defendant's bail or bond can happen.
However, since the case involves a first-degree murder charge, there won't be a reduction in bond.
Ethan's conference will likely be virtual. It also likely won't produce much substance since it's a procedural meeting. Instead, both sides will make sure they have enough facts and discovery evidence to conduct a preliminary exam.
That's likely to follow next week.
During the conference, the topic of a competency hearing is likely to come up. As will how Ethan is being treated in jail - similar to his first meeting.