Parents of Michigan high school shooter Ethan Crumbley will go to trial, judges rule

Ethan Crumbley, then 15, killed four students in the Oxford High School attack.

March 23, 2023, 11:16 AM

The parents of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley will stand trial for their alleged role in the attack, a three-judge panel with the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled.

Jennifer and James Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the Nov. 30, 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School.

PHOTO: A memorial for the shooting victims outside of Oxford High School, Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
A memorial for the shooting victims outside of Oxford High School, Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Scott Olson/Getty Images, FILE

Their son, Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time, allegedly used James Crumbley's semi-automatic handgun to kill four students and injure several others.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are accused of making the gun accessible and failing to recognize warning signs.

PHOTO: James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are seen in photos provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.
James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley are seen in photos provided by the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.
Oakland County Sheriff's Office

In a written opinion, Judge Christopher Murray said Jennifer and James Crumbley's "actions and inactions were inexorably intertwined with" their son's actions.

The parents "were actively involved" in their son's "mental state remaining untreated," Murray said. The parents also "provided him with the weapon he used to kill the victims" and "refused to remove him from the situation that led directly to the shootings," Murray wrote.

In a concurring opinion, Judge Michael Riordan wrote that although parents typically cannot be held liable for a child’s crime, Jennifer and James Crumbley were aware of “visual evidence…that [Ethan Crumbley] was contemplating the act of gunshot wounds being inflicted upon someone.”

PHOTO: Jennifer Crumbley, left, and her husband James Crumbley, parents of the alleged Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, appear in 6th Circuit Court for their pretrial hearing on March 22, 2022 in Pontiac, Mich.
Jennifer Crumbley, left, and her husband James Crumbley, parents of the alleged Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley charged with killing four people and wounding seven others, appear in 6th Circuit Court for their pretrial hearing with James Crumbley's defense attorney Mariell Lehman, center, on March 22, 2022 in Pontiac, Mich.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images, FILE

Days before the shooting, a teacher allegedly saw Ethan Crumbley researching ammunition in class, and the school contacted his parents but they didn't respond, according to prosecutors. But Jennifer Crumbley did text 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, prosecutors said 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 above that bullet, 'Blood everywhere.'"

The Crumbleys were called to the school over the incident, and said they'd get their son counseling, but they did not take him home, prosecutors said.

A lawyer for the Crumbleys and the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office declined to comment on the ruling, citing a gag order.

Last year Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to all charges against him, including terrorism and murder.