Michigan school shooter’s mother to stand trial for manslaughter in 4 student deaths

Jan 22, 2024, 10:17 PM

FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2022, photo, Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, app...

FILE - In this Feb. 8, 2022, photo, Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, appear in court in Rochester Hills, Mich. The mother of the Michigan school shooter is headed to trial on involuntary manslaughter charges. Prosecutors are trying to pin criminal responsibility on Ethan Crumbley's parents in the deaths of four students at Oxford High School in 2021. Jennifer and James Crumbley are not accused of knowing their son planned to kill fellow students. But prosecutors say they were grossly negligent by making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley and ignoring his mental health needs. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The mother of a teenager who committed a mass school shooting in Michigan is headed to trial on involuntary manslaughter charges in an unusual effort to pin criminal responsibility on his parents for the deaths of four students.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are not accused of knowing their son planned to kill fellow students at Oxford High School in 2021. But prosecutors said they made a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley, ignored his mental health needs and declined to take him home when confronted with his violent drawings at school on the day of the attack.

Involuntary manslaughter has been “well-defined for ages, and its elements are definite and plain: gross negligence causing death,” assistant prosecutor Joseph Shada said in a court filing.

More than 200 people appeared Tuesday at Oakland County court, 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Detroit, to begin the jury selection process in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial. James Crumbley will face a separate trial in March. In December, Ethan was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes.

It’s a notable case: The Crumbleys are the first parents to be charged in a mass U.S. school shooting. The mother of a 6-year-old Virginia boy who wounded his teacher with a gun was recently sentenced to two years in prison for child neglect.

“I think prosecutors are feeling pressure when these weapon-related offenses occur,” said Eve Brensike Primus, who teaches criminal procedure at the University of Michigan Law School. “People are outraged, and they’re looking for someone to take responsibility for it.”

There’s no dispute that James Crumbley, 47, bought a gun with Ethan at his side four days before the shooting — the teen called it, “my new beauty.” Jennifer Crumbley, 45, took him to a shooting range and described the outing on Instagram as a “mom and son day.”

A day before the shooting, the school informed Jennifer Crumbley that Ethan, who was 15, was looking at ammunition on his phone. “I’m not mad,” she texted him. “You have to learn not to get caught.”

Defense attorneys insist the tragedy was not foreseeable by the parents. They liken the charges to trying to put a “square peg into a round hole.”

“After every school shooting, the media and those affected are quick to point to so-called ‘red flags’ that were missed by those in the shooter’s life,” Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman said in an unsuccessful effort to get the Michigan Supreme Court to dismiss the charges. “But the truth of the matter is one cannot predict the unimaginable.”

At his sentencing, Ethan, now 17, told a judge that he was a “really bad person” who could not stop himself.

“They did not know and I did not tell them what I planned to do, so they are not at fault,” he said of his parents.

A few hours before the shooting, the Crumbleys were summoned to Oxford High School. Ethan had drawn violent images on a math assignment with the message: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

The parents were told to get him into counseling, but they declined to remove him from school and left campus after less than 30 minutes, according to investigators. Ethan had brought a gun from home that day, Nov. 30, 2021, though no one checked his backpack.

The shooter surrendered to police after killing four students and wounding seven more people. The parents were charged a few days later, but they weren’t easy to find. Police said they were hiding in a building in Detroit.

The Crumbleys have been in jail for more than two years awaiting trial, unable to afford a $500,000 bond. Involuntary manslaughter in Michigan carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.


Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwritez

United States News

Associated Press

Three former Department of Education employees charged with defrauding Arizona voucher program

Three former Arizona Department of Education employees were indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in what prosecutors say was a scheme to defraud more than $600,000 from an education voucher program that has drawn criticism for its skyrocketing costs and lax regulation by the state. Prosecutors said Thursday that the three employees approved applications […]

30 minutes ago

Associated Press

EPA to delay rules for some power plants until after November election

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is delaying planned rules to curb emissions from existing natural gas plants that release harmful air pollutants and contribute to global warming. The agency said it is still on track to finalize rules for coal-fired power plants and new gas plants that have not come […]

51 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge holds veteran journalist Catherine Herridge in civil contempt for refusing to divulge source

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge held veteran investigative reporter Catherine Herridge in civil contempt on Thursday for refusing to divulge her source for a series of stories during her time at Fox News about a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but never charged. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington […]

1 hour ago

President Joe Biden, second from the right, looks over the southern border, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024...

Associated Press

On the Rio Grande, 300 miles apart, Biden and Trump try to use immigration to election advantage

Three hundred miles apart, President Joe Biden and likely Republican challenger Donald Trump walked along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas Thursday.

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Maryland State House locked down, armed officers seen responding

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland State House was locked down for an undisclosed security threat late Thursday afternoon. Reporters with officers on the ground floor of the building were told to lock their doors shortly after 5 p.m. by an aide to Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones. About 30 minutes later, police escorted […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Indiana Legislature approves bill adding additional verification steps to voter registration

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that expands the power of the state to verify voters’ addresses and adds an additional residency requirement for first-time voters. The bill’s Republican sponsor state Sen. Mike Gaskill called it a “commonsense bill” that adds protections against fraud, but voting advocates have blasted the changes as new […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 


Sanderson Ford

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Michigan school shooter’s mother to stand trial for manslaughter in 4 student deaths