New evidence shows staff at Oxford High School ignored signs of imminent danger leading up to last fall’s shooting, according to an attorney for the families of children killed and injured in the attack.
Ven Johnson, representing the families prosecuting alleged shooter, Ethan Crumbley, and Oxford School District employees, presented a timeline of warning signs communicated between counselors and teachers obtained through depositions taken in the case so far. ‘now.
“Right from the start of school, Ethan Crumbley showed signs of being a very troubled individual,” Johnson said at a press conference Thursday.
On September 8, Spanish teacher Diana McConnell emailed counselor Shawn Hopkins saying an autobiographical poem assignment had revealed ‘unusual responses’ which included Crumbley’s description of her family as ‘a mistake’ .
In another email sent Nov. 10, McConnell wrote to Hopkins that “Ethan Crumbley is struggling right now, he may need to talk to you.”
Councilors Hopkins and Pam Parker Fine, Nicholas Ejak, the Dean of Students at Oxford, and Professors Becky Morgan, Jacqueline Kubina and Allison Karpinski are named defendants in the trial with Ethan Crumbley and his parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley.
On Nov. 29, after noticing Crumbley looking at pictures of “balls” on his phone while in class, teacher Jacqueline Kubina grew concerned and reviewed his previous homework. It was the day before the shooting.
In an email she sent to Ejak and Fine that morning and later forwarded to Hopkins, Kubina said that “Crumbley’s work from the start of the year leans towards the violent side”.
Kubina said in her deposition that she reviewed an investigation conducted on August 26, the second day of the 2021 school year, and read that one of her favorite books was “Making Bombs for Hitler” by Marsha Forchuk. It tells the story of Ukrainian children forced to make bombs for the German army while in a labor camp during World War II. Crumbley listed his two favorite TV shows as Dexter and Breaking Bad.
Later that afternoon, Kubina sent another email to Fine and Hopkins with an attached photo of a note card Crumbley filled out earlier this year depicting a gun, which had been erased but was still visible, and a “bullet” magazine.
She said no one she contacted that day followed her up.
Also that morning, Allison Karpinski, a special education teacher, emailed Hopkins and Fine saying she had seen Crumbley watching videos on her phone “of a guy shooting people down.”
“Everyone assumed everyone was doing something, when in reality nobody was doing anything,” Johnson said.
Hopkins met Crumbley and his parents that morning in high school, and the student was sent back to class at 11 a.m.
Within two hours, Crumbley is charged with starting his attack. Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Justin Shilling, 17, died the following day.
“There were warning signs on the 29th and 30th that were absolutely ignored,” Johnson said. “The gross negligence of this school district is overwhelming.”
“To me, this is beyond neglect and unforgivable,” said Shilling’s mother, Jill Soave. “We have four angels who are gone. I can’t find any excuse to drop the ball over and over and over again.
Defense attorney Neil Rockind, who is not connected to the trial, said it was unusual for a lawyer to publicly discuss evidence taken from depositions so early in the process, but the Oxford case is unique.
“The Crumbley case, from its inception to today, is unusual,” Rockind said. “The school board has not stepped in and filled the void in terms of the public’s desire to be informed of what really happened. This is filled in by Ven Johnson.
Johnson said he has taken five or six depositions so far and they may continue next year.
“He fills the void and has a vested interest in correcting any misinformation or inaccuracies that have been made in the case from the start,” Rockind said.
“What we hope is that by sharing this information with the public…we can once and for all begin to understand what went wrong,” Johnson said. “So that it doesn’t happen again in Oxford or anywhere else in the world.”