By Mike Martindale | The Detroit News
Pontiac – An Oakland County Circuit Court judge ruled on Tuesday that the county jail was the appropriate place to house accused Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley and denied requests to transfer him to the facility for minors from the county children’s village.
On February 22, Judge Kwame Rowe heard arguments from defense attorneys and the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office regarding the placement of the 15-year-old accused of killing four classmates and injuring others six others and a teacher during the November 30 incident at his school. He has been held in the Oakland County Jail since his arrest that day.
Crumbley’s court-appointed lawyer, Paulette Loftin, did not call any witnesses at the placement hearing but argued keeping the teenager in solitary confinement was inappropriate, saying he would receive better care and treatment at the Children’s Village with other teenagers.
Federal law sets a very high bar for housing a youth in an adult prison instead of a juvenile detention center, unless a judge finds that keeping a juvenile in an adult facility is ” in the interest of justice”. Among the factors the judge must consider are the age of the offender, the circumstances of the charges, physical and mental maturity, and current mental state, including the risk of self-harm.
There is a 180-day limit unless there is “good cause” for an extension under federal law.
In a 12-page notice Tuesday, Rowe said after weighing all of the testimony and evidence that he believed “it is in the interests of justice” that Crumbley remain in the Oakland County Jail.
Rowe noted that there have been eight escapes or breakouts from the children’s village in the past nine months and that, with the facility understaffed, he concluded that it was “clear that the village of ‘children is unable to house the accused safely…’
While in self-isolation, Crumbley had “actively communicated with the public – sometimes multiple times a day” on the internet and expressed no mental health concerns, Rowe wrote. In an email from January 16, he told someone he was in adult prison and “I have a cell for me 3 meals a day, TV to watch and the guards are pretty nice”.
Rowe mentioned several criminal acts noted in Crumbley’s diary, emails, and texts, including “a plan to kidnap, rape, torture and then kill an unidentified woman,” Rowe wrote. Crumbley also described how he created a Molotov cocktail and started a small fire in the woods and described “how he can use the Molotov cocktails during the school shooting.
“Finally, the Court will note that prior to the alleged incident, the Defendant killed several baby birds. In his diary, he noted that he had killed “8 baby birds by torturing them slowly (sic) to death” .
“The above prior delinquent acts are of grave concern to this court,” Rowe wrote.
In his ruling, Rowe also instructed the district attorney’s office to speak with the Oakland County Jail to find out if there is a place to confine Crumbley without 24-hour continuous light.
Oakland County Jail Supervisor Capt. Tom Vida said earlier this month that while Crumbley was being held in solitary confinement in the clinic area of the jail, a 24-hour light was on. used to monitor it.
Loftin told Rowe earlier this month that Crumbley has “very little access to anyone” other than a deputy who watches him every 15 minutes.
“This extreme isolation is in no way beneficial and actually harming Mr. Crumbley,” she argued, adding that apart from 12 visits from his lawyers and emails from “random” people, he has little contact with the world.
“He does not have the phone numbers of his family members,” she added.
Inmate social worker Christina Belling said she visited Crumbley for five to 10 minutes a day to assess mental health issues and found none. She continues to see him twice a week, brings him Harry Potter books to read and makes sure he has access to a psychiatrist, she testified.
While initially placed on suicide watch, with constant monitoring, Crumbley was reduced in January to behavioral watch, which requires monitoring every 15 minutes.
Crumbley faces 24 felony charges that carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment.
The attorneys have filed intentions to raise an insanity defense on Crumbley’s behalf.
A review hearing on Crumbley’s placement is scheduled for March 24 in front of Rowe. No other court date has been set, according to the prosecution.