The jailed Michigan parents charged with involuntary manslaughter stemming from a high school mass shooting committed by their teenage son, Ethan Crumbley, is asking a judge to lower their bail, claiming they have evidence proving they did not attempt to evade arrest, according to court documents.
James and Jennifer Crumbley have been held in an Oakland County jail in Michigan for more than a year on bonds of $500,000 each. They were arrested in a friend’s art studio after an hours-long manhunt that began when the couple failed to appear for a scheduled arraignment.
"The Crumbleys were terrified that someone would figure out who they were and hurt them," the couple’s lawyers said in a motion filed Wednesday. "They made no effort to evade police."
In a February court hearing, Oakland County prosecutors alleged that in the hours after the November 2021 shooting carried out by their then-15-year-old son at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit, the parents withdrew thousands of dollars and slept in hotels -- proof, prosecutors alleged that they were avoiding arrest.
But the couple’s lawyers say they needed the money immediately for legal fees and wanted to avoid entering banks and showing identification following the shooting. The defense attorneys claimed the couple feared being recognized by community members "who were rightfully emotional and angry." They also allege family members in the area refused to house them because of concerns for their own safety.
The lawyers, Mariell Lehman and Shannon Smith, argue that if the Crumbleys wanted to flee, they would have left the state. Instead, they settled in a Detroit warehouse that housed the art studio.
The couple is set to stand trial next year. They have pleaded not guilty to four counts each of involuntary manslaughter after allegedly making the gun used in the shooting accessible to their son and failing to recognize warning signs about him before the shooting.
They have pleaded not guilty.
The shooting at Oxford High School unfolded on Nov. 30, 2021, and left four students dead and seven others injured.
Ethan Crumbley, now 16, pleaded guilty in December to 24 counts, including four counts of murder, multiple counts of attempted murder and terrorism charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 9 and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Crumbley admitted in court that he asked his father to buy him a specific gun. The teen confirmed he gave his father money for the gun and that the weapon wasn’t kept in a locked safe.
He used the semi-automatic handgun to carry out the shooting rampage. Crumbley did not know the students he shot, according to his attorney.
Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Crumbley researching ammunition in class, prosecutors said. School officials contacted his parents, but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. His mother, Jennifer Crumbley, texted her son, writing, "lol, I'm not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught," according to prosecutors.
Hours before the shooting, according to prosecutors, a teacher saw a note on Ethan Crumbley's desk that was "a drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, 'The thoughts won't stop, help me.'" In another section of the note was a drawing of a bullet with the following words, "Blood everywhere."
Crumbley’s parents were called to the school to discuss the note, according to prosecutors. The parents told school officials that they would put their their son in counseling but did not take him home.