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DETROIT – Teenager Ethan Crumbley plans to pursue an insanity defense for his alleged role in the Oxford High School mass shooting that killed four students, injured seven others and devastated an entire community, according to a Thursday court filing.
"Please take notice that ... Ethan Crumbley intends to assert the defense of insanity at the time of the alleged offense," his lawyers, Paula Loftin and Amy Hopp wrote in the one-paragraph filing in Oakland County Circuit Court.
The filing now paves the way for Crumbley to receive a psychiatric evaluation, which is needed to pursue an insanity defense.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said she has no reason to believe that Crumbley's mental state would affect his ability to face charges.
Mike Rataj, a defense attorney who has used the insanity defense in multiple cases during his 30-plus year legal career, expected this move from Crumbley's lawyers.
Rataj said the Crumbley defense will have to overcome the factual hurdle as to "if he's actually insane," which would point to culpability. And there will be plenty of experts involved, he noted.
"It’s going to come down to a battle of the experts," Rataj said, "and whether the jury is going to believe that the kid cannot formulate the necessary intent because he’s insane."
Rataj noted, "People who are schizophrenic – that doesn’t necessarily mean that they're not guilty by reason of insanity."
The teen is accused of killing four people – Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17 – and injuring seven, including a teacher.
Prosecutors portrayed Crumbley as a troubled and homicidal teen who battled depression, hallucinated, tortured animals and was fascinated with guns and Nazi propaganda. They blamed the parents for the mass shooting, saying they ignored numerous red flags that their son was in trouble and bought him a gun.
"The (parents) had information long before Nov. 30 (six months prior to the shooting) that their son's only friend moved at the end of October, that the family dog died, that their son was sadder than usual, and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind," the prosecution argued in court documents. "Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun."
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Crumbley is charged with the shooting at his school with a gun that his parents bought him as an early Christmas present on Black Friday, four days before the Nov. 30 massacre.
His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are charged with involuntary manslaughter.
According to police, school officials and the prosecution, the Crumbleys – who met with school officials on the morning of the shooting to address behavioral concerns about their son – never disclosed that they had bought their son a gun. That morning, Ethan Crumbley had drawn a violent note on his homework, featuring a gun and the words "Help me. The thoughts won't stop."
School officials called the parents in, but they refused to bring their son home, police and prosecutors said. The school told the parents they had 48 hours to get their son therapy, then allowed Ethan to return to class.
Shortly after, Crumbley opened fire in a hallway in a five-minute rampage.
The 15-year-old was charged as an adult with terrorism and first-degree murder charges and could face life in prison if convicted.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Accused Oxford high school shooter, to plead insanity