“I am the Demon.” Those are the words of Ethan Crumbley, the school shooter who attacked Oxford High School two years ago. He was 15 years old when he killed four people and wounded seven others before surrendering and being taken into custody. He pleaded guilty to all charges. Recently, there was a sentencing hearing to determine whether or not he should be sentenced to life without possibility of parole or life with possibility of parole. The law states that people under 18 cannot be sentenced to death nor be sentenced to life without parole. At this recent sentencing hearing, a great deal of information was revealed, including his written plans to carry out the killings and needing the first victim to be a pretty girl. His first victim was, in fact, a pretty girl. He shot a girl named Phoebe, who survived, before then going on to kill four people and wound six others. He planned his attack very meticulously and knew exactly what he was going to do. The prior Christmas, his utterly incompetent parents bought him a 9-millimeter gun, which is what he used to kill those people at his high school. His parents showed no care for him at all; they wouldn’t take him to the doctor when he said he needed to go, they often left him alone, and they talked about things like suicide, divorce, and adultery in front of him without making any effort to be discreet. His parents are now being charged with involuntary manslaughter because of how uncaring and negligent they were.
The sentencing hearing lasted three days, which must’ve been excruciating to the victims who had to sit through it and listen to Ethan talk about how he was a demon, how he enjoyed torturing baby birds, and how he learned to use a gun in order to carry out the shooting. The parents of the victims also had to hear him discuss his plans about how he was going to kill those children and attack the school. That must’ve been a soul shattering experience. There were therapy dogs at the courtroom so the victims could be comforted between sessions. I saw some of the pictures; Phoebe’s mother looked like she was on the verge of total collapse. The sentencing hearing concluded Monday; the judge has yet to rule on whether or not Ethan will be sentenced to life without parole or life with possibility of parole. Either way, he is going to spend a very long time in jail for what he did.
What do we do with deeply troubled teenagers whose parents are too incompetent to take care of them? Ethan needs massive amounts of therapy and psychiatric care, and we need to study him to find out how this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. I would be in favor of sending to him to a psychiatric hospital, except for one thing. If you’re in prison, you have to serve your sentence. A psychiatric hospital can let you out any time they think you’re ready to go. Our mental health system does not have a good track record of keeping people in until they are fit to be out in society again, and I would not want to see this guy let out of a psychiatric hospital because they think he’s been cured. I read a story recently about a guy who was released from a psychiatric hospital a few months after he was admitted. A couple weeks after they let him out, he kidnapped a six-year-old girl, took her to an abandoned factory, tried to rape her, and beat her to death with a brick. This is why I am reluctant to see Ethan Crumbley go to a psychiatric hospital. Even though I think it might be the best thing for him, it might not be the best thing for society. I do think he needs to be very carefully studied in prison and perhaps we should put psychiatric facilities on prison grounds themselves so people can receive treatment safely without being in danger of getting out.
I think we need to keep a very close watch on all children in middle school and high school. Additionally, schools need to be a lot more open about violence prevention. We need to discuss it with our children and ask them why they would want to be violent or what they would gain from it. We can’t just gloss over the issue; we need to talk about it openly with our children and see how we can help them. A lot of teachers are quitting nowadays because schools are so dangerous. Teachers are being beaten up, attacked, and terrorized by their students. We cannot have inclusion, diversity, and equity in an environment where teachers are literally afraid to go to work for fear of their safety. We need to keep a close watch on all children. If we see somebody who’s starting to go down the wrong path by openly talking about school shootings, we need to get them into a treatment center. They need to be taken out of school so they can receive massive amounts of therapy. We also need some kind of training for parents. Ethan Crumbley’s parents did not have the slightest idea on how to properly parent him. When he was sick, they refused to take him to the doctor; instead, they’d give him a couple of pills and tell him to suck it up. They also frequently went out and partied all night while he was left alone at the house. They neglected him completely and did not seem to care that he was going down a terrible path. Their only advice to him was “learn not to get caught.” Obviously not the greatest of parents. We need to make much more of an effort to intercept deeply troubled kids before they kill. We need to get them into psychiatric facilities and talk to them about why it’s important not to be violent.
One thing is certain. We cannot go on like this. Ethan Crumbley has left a terrible scar on the Oxford community. The parents of the victims will never completely heal. They’re going to have to live with terrible memories for the rest of their lives and know that evil was brewing in their community and no one did anything to stop it. How do we stop this? What do we do with the boy who said, “I am the demon”?