Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in U.S. history to stand trial for a mass shooting. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, pled guilty to murder and terrorism in 2023 for the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan that left four students dead and seven others injured.
Ethan was sentenced to life without parole.
Jennifer Crumbley and her husband, James Crumbley, were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting. Mr. Crumbley is being tried separately.
On Tuesday, Jennifer learned her fate: She was found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
— Nancy Grace (@NancyGrace) February 6, 2024
Crumbley sat quietly as the verdict was read.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 6, 2024
While answering questions from the defense last Thursday, Crumbley said on the witness stand:
As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers. You never would think you’d have to protect your child from harming someone else. That’s what blew my mind. That was the hardest thing I had to stomach is that my child harmed and killed other people.
While Crumbley’s defense team argued that she was innocent because she didn’t know her son was planning the school shooting and therefore shouldn’t be held accountable for his crimes, the prosecution argued that she ignored Ethan’s cries for help — and that the 15-year-old committed the shooting with a gun the Crumbleys alleged bought for him as a gift.
Shannon Smith, Jennifer’s attorney, accused the prosecution of “cherry-picked evidence,” saying in her closing statement:
It’s obvious [that] real life is messy and complicated. And during this trial, I will openly admit that I’m a lawyer who messes up. … I am a human being, and so is Mrs. Crumbley, and that’s what this case is about. She’s not a perfect person or a perfect parent.
Not to nitpick, but that’s far from a strong closing argument.
Prosecutors suggested Jennifer could have stopped the shooting before it happened when she arrived at Oxford High on the morning of Nov. 30, 2021, to meet with school counselors after Ethan was caught scrawling disturbing notes in class.
His notes included an image of a gun and the phrases “Help me,” “Blood everywhere” and “My life is useless,” along with a drawing of a gun.
“You could have been with him,” Oakland County assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said Friday.
“I could have, yes,” Jennifer Crumbley testified.
After the shooting, the Crumbleys allegedly fled Oxford after some initial questioning from police. U.S. Marshals eventually caught up with them near the Canadian border days later on Dec. 4, 2021.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said in her closing statements Friday:
The minute this shooting became public and ended up in the paper, in the media, Jennifer Crumbley started telling a story, and then she ran. And she didn’t run just because she was selfish. … She ran, she started deleting text messages, and she started telling a different story because she knew she did something wrong.
I’m neither an attorney nor qualified to offer a legal opinion in this case, but I will offer a few non-legal comments.
Were Jennifer and James Crumbley terrible parents? Undoubtedly.
Did they ignore cries of help from what appears to have been a deeply disturbed 15-year-old who clearly showed the potential to commit acts of violence? Again undoubtedly.
Could they have stopped him? The answer is unknowable.
And the toughest question of all: Should Jennifer Crumbley — and next up, James Crumbley — have been convicted in connection to a crime committed by her son? What say you?
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