A Michigan jury found the mother of convicted school shooter Ethan Crumbley guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday for the deaths of four students at Oxford High School in 2021.
The jury went home without a decision Monday, following hours of deliberations, and returned to the Michigan court Tuesday.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent when she did not tell school officials that her family had guns — which included the 9 mm handgun used by her son at a shooting range just days before the Nov. 30, 2021, deadly shooting.
The jury sent a note to Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews about four hours into deliberations Monday asking if it could “infer” anything from the prosecutors not presenting Ethan Crumbley or others to explain how he managed to get the gun from his home, The Associated Press reported.
“The answer is no. You’re only allowed to consider the evidence that was admitted in the case,” Matthews responded.
School officials raised concerns about a drawing the teenage gunman included on a math assignment, which depicted a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” When school staff asked the parents to take their son home for the day and seek counseling for him, the parents declined to do so.
Crumbley was sent back to class later that day. His backpack, where the handgun was hidden, was not searched. He shot 10 students and one teacher, killing four of the students.
“He literally drew a picture of what he was going to do. It says, ‘Help me,’” prosecutor Karen McDonald said during closing arguments, AP reported.
McDonald alleged Jennifer Crumbley knew the drawing of the gun was identical to the firearm they had at home.
“She knew it wasn’t stored properly,” the prosecutor said. “She knew that he was proficient with the gun. She knew he had access to ammunition.”
The parents, including father James Crumbley, were also accused of ignoring their son’s mental health needs.
“I have zero help for my mental problems, and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” Ethan wrote in a journal found in his backpack.
Shannon Smith, Jennifer’s defense attorney, argued during the trial that the father was responsible for the gun, per the AP. Smith also claimed Ethan Crumbley was a “skilled manipulator” who did not have a mental illness.
Smith further argued that the shooting was not foreseeable, according to the AP.
“Unfortunately this is a case where the prosecution made a charging decision way too fast,” Smith said. “It was motivated by obvious reasons, for political gain, and done for media attention.”
Craig Shilling, the father of one of the school shooting victims, told CBS News after the verdict that “a lot of stuff that could have easily thwarted” the shooting at Oxford High School
“You cannot choose to not nurture your child. You cannot choose to take your own interest over your child, especially when it comes to mental health,” Shilling said.
Nick Suplina, the senior vice president for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, said the verdict “underscores the important responsibility of parents and gun owners in preventing children from having unsupervised access to deadly weapons.”
“Plain and simple, the deadly shooting at Oxford High School in 2021 should have — and could have — been prevented had the Crumbleys not acquired a gun for their 15-year-old son. This decision is an important step forward in ensuring accountability and, hopefully, preventing future tragedies,” he said in s statement.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, and James Crumbley, 47, are the first parents in the United States to be charged in a school shooting committed by their child.
They have both been in jail for more than two years, as they were unable to pay the $500,000 bond. James Crumbley’s separate trial on his charges will be in March.
The Associated Press contributed.
Updated at 4:27 p.m.