Jennifer Crumbley sent several messages criticizing her own parenting ability and discussing how the family’s firearm was secured shortly after her teenage son Ethan carried out a school shooting at his Michigan high school in November 2021, according to messages revealed in court Wednesday.
“I failed as a parent. I failed miserably,” she wrote.
Jennifer Crumbley wrote the messages as part of a lengthy conversation with Brian Meloche, a firefighter captain who testified he was in an extramarital romantic relationship with her at the time of the shooting.
Jennifer Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of the four students in the shooting at Oxford High School. Her husband, James Crumbley, is scheduled to go to trial on the same charges in early March.
Prosecutors have accused her of gross negligence for disregarding the risks when she and her husband bought their son a gun four days before the shooting, even though he was struggling with his mental health and experiencing hallucinations. They also said his mother did not mention the gun or mental health issues to school officials in a meeting to discuss Ethan’s disturbing drawings just hours before the fatal shooting.
Her attorney Shannon Smith argued in opening statements that the blame lay elsewhere: On her husband for purchasing the firearm and encouraging the hobby; on the school for failing to notify her about her son’s behavioral issues; and on Ethan himself, who actually pulled the trigger.
The defense indicated during opening statements that Jennifer Crumbley would testify.
Under oath Wednesday, Crumbley waived a pretrial ruling from the judge that had barred evidence about her extramarital affair from coming in at trial. Crumbley said she trusted her lawyer’s strategy change.
“Her life is more important than her dignity in terms of – she had an affair, lots of people have affairs. I mean the bottom line is at the end of the day it doesn’t mean you know your kid is a school shooter,” Smith told the court.
The discussion of the extramarital affair, as well as the defense’s implications that Meloche was threatened by police interrogators, led to a tense debate between the prosecution and the defense about what evidence can and cannot be allowed into the trial.
“This is not a trial about her morality so I want to make sure that we stick to the elements of the case and what you’re required to prove, which is not that she’s a bad person,” Judge Cheryl Matthews said. “That’s not what we’re here about.”
What Jennifer Crumbley wrote
In several messages shown in court Wednesday, Jennifer Crumbley stated how the firearm used in the shooting was stored and secured.
On the morning of the shooting, she said she had to go to her son’s school because she was worried he “was going to do something dumb,” Meloche testified. He responded by asking where her firearm was, and Jennifer said the gun was in her vehicle, he testified.
However, other testimony has shown that the gun was in Ethan Crumbley’s backpack at school.
Meloche also testified that he recalled telling Jennifer Crumbley to call 911 when she realized the gun was missing. He acknowledged that he deleted these and other messages from Facebook. A prosecutor told the jury that messages that were deleted by him and Crumbley could not be recovered by law enforcement.
Crumbley also told Meloche how the gun was secured. “We had the string lock on it, it came with in the case,” she wrote, a reference to a cable lock that can be used to secure a firearm. However, the firearm used in the shooting was not actually secured with a cable lock, according to other testimony in the trial.
“Everything was secured, not loaded, bullets stored away separately,” she added in another message.
In a message two days after the shooting, she said she was aware they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter.
“We’re on the run again. Helicopters not sure where to I’ll message you,” she wrote.
The Crumbleys were supposed to attend an arraignment on December 3 after being charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, but they missed the arraignment, making them fugitives and setting off a search. They were apprehended in the early morning hours the next day in an art studio in a building about 40 miles from their home.
Some of Jennifer Crumbley’s messages referred to her views of a pivotal meeting at the school with her son, husband and two school employees on the morning of November 30, 2021, hours before the shooting. The meeting stemmed from Ethan’s disturbing writings on a math worksheet, including the phrases “blood everywhere,” “my life is useless” and drawings of a gun and bullet.
The school employees testified earlier this week that they recommended the parents take Ethan out of school and get immediate mental health assistance, but his parents declined and said they didn’t want to miss work. Ethan was allowed to return to class, and later that day he took a hidden gun out of his backpack and opened fire.
However, Jennifer Crumbley described the meeting differently in her messages to Meloche and said “the system failed.”
“They should of never blown it off and made it seem of no concern and never gave him the option to go back to class,” she wrote. “It could have been prevented.”
“The whole conversation was very nonchalant.. oh here’s a list of counselors, but we don’t see him as a threat.. and we just agreed because he’s NEVER DONE ANYTHING WRONG!!” she wrote.
On cross-examination Tuesday, former dean of students Nicholas Ejak testified the shooter had no history of school discipline, and that the drawings and other classroom incidents did not rise to the level of discipline. He also said he had training on how to identify threats in school and did not view Ethan’s actions as threatening.
“There was no threat present at the time,” he said.
However, on redirect, Ejak said he did not know and was not told by Jennifer Crumbley that Ethan had access to a firearm and had been having mental health issues in recent months.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com