Justin Shilling’s family’s heartbreaking letter about Michigan school shooting victims

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As families prepare to memorialize the victims of Tuesday’s school shooting, the parents of the fourth boy killed asked their Michigan community to keep the students who were gunned down “in the forefront of our minds and in the news.”

Justin Shilling, 17, died Wednesday from wounds he received when fellow student Ethan Crumbley, 15, allegedly opened fire inside Oxford High School.

Crumbley has been charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism in the attack. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter after buying him the gun he is believed to have used in the attack, and failing to secure it or alert school authorities that he had access to the weapon.

They pleaded “not guilty” to those charges Saturday morning.

Shilling’s parents described the death of their son as “beyond imagination” in an unsigned letter to the tight-knit Oxford community.

“The loss of Justin leaves such a gaping hole in our family that we cannot conceive of life without him,” they wrote in the letter, obtained by the Detroit Free Press. “Our hearts are broken and yet still go out to the other families suffering this very same loss at this very same moment and which is beyond imagination, nothing any family should have to endure.”

They asked the community to keep “the importance of what has been lost” in the forefront of their minds. “These are beautiful children’s lives, full of potential and with the expectation of so much more to come,” they wrote.

Four students were killed and seven others injured on November 30, when student Ethan Crumbley allegedly opened fire with a pistol at the school. Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling, Madisyn Baldwin. (Twitter/Facebook)
Oxford High School shooting victims Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myre, Justin Shilling and Madisyn Baldwin.
Twitter/Facebook
Memorial items shown on the sign of Oxford High School where four students' lives were taken in a shooting.
Memorial items fill the Oxford High School sign following the deaths of four students.
AP / Paul Sancya
Students embrace each other at a memorial held for the slain students at Oxford High School.
Students embrace each other at a memorial held for the slain students at Oxford High School.
NIC ANTAYA/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Shilling was a scholar, tireless worker with three jobs and a lettered athlete, according to the letter.

“His potential was boundless in life and yet in death he continues to give of himself as an organ donor,” they wrote. “We feel the world can’t have enough of Justin.”

About 5,000 people descended on downtown Oxford to mourn the victims Friday night, The Detroit News reported. Bells tolled for four minutes, representing the four victims. Local pastors and leaders focused on positive messages about the teens and made little mention of the suspect.

A memorial placed outside the Oxford High School.
Justin Schilling’s parents asked the community to keep “the importance of what has been lost” in the forefront of their minds.
EPA / Nic Antaya

Matt Schuler, lead pastor at Oxford’s Journey Lutheran Church, described the past week as the “beginning of a new rescue mission: following the brave lifesaving actions of our students, our teachers, our first responders.”

Meanwhile, an online petition calling for the school to rename its football stadium for Tate Myre, 16, has attracted more than 240,000 signatures since it was posted early Wednesday.

“Tate is not just a hero to his fellow students at Oxford High School but a legend,” the petition states. “His act of bravery should be remembered forever and passed down through generations, he put his life in danger to try and help the thousands of other students at Oxford High School.”

Separately, Myre’s family announced arrangements for services, to include a visitation Monday afternoon and evening and a funeral Tuesday at noon, the Free Press reported.

Visitation for Madisyn Baldwin, 17, was starting Saturday afternoon. And Hana St. Juliania, 14, will be remembered at visitation Wednesday, with a funeral immediately following.

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