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Michigan Mass Shooter's Mom Found Guilty For Role In Son's Crime

A jury has found Jennifer Crumbley, whose son killed four students at a Michigan high school mass shooting in 2021, guilty of manslaughter ― a crime she was charged with because she and her husband gave her then 15-year-old son a gun despite his behavioral issues.

Crumbley, 45, was found guilty on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter prosecutors charged her with over her role in the deadly shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan’s Oxford Township. It’s believed to be the first time the parents of a shooter have been held accountable for their child’s actions.

Each charge carries a a maximum penalty of 15 years. Her sentencing is scheduled for April 9.

Prosecutors argued that she and husband James Crumbley ― who’s set to stand trial next month ― were responsible for their 15-year-old son Ethan’s rampage because they bought him a semi-automatic handgun just days before he opened fire at school, even though their son was struggling with his mental state and exhibiting disturbing behavior.

Jennifer Crumbley appears in court on Jan. 26, 2024, in Pontiac, Michigan.
Jennifer Crumbley appears in court on Jan. 26, 2024, in Pontiac, Michigan.

Jennifer Crumbley appears in court on Jan. 26, 2024, in Pontiac, Michigan.

In her closing arguments on Feb. 2, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said there were several things Jennifer Crumbley could have done to stop the shooting. Hours before the killings took place, when the school called her and her husband onto campus to discuss disturbing images Ethan had drawn of guns and gunshot victims, McDonald said that Crumbley not only dismissed school officials’ concerns but also failed to inform them she’d recently given her son a gun.

“The tragic thing about it is none of that was hard,” McDonald said of the actions Crumbley could have taken, including going home after the meeting with school officials to check if the gun was securely stored away.

Prosecutors also noted that in the months before the shooting, Ethan had texted his mom that he was hearing voices and seeing demons. And in texts to friends, he said his mother laughed when he asked her to get him medical help. In a journal, he wrote, “I want help but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help. I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the fucking school.”

Crumbley’s son was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole last December.

Her defense team largely shifted the blame on her husband, saying he was the parent with firearm knowledge and the one who actually purchased the gun for Ethan. They also argued that the couple truly did not know the extent of their son’s behavioral issues.

Photos of Ethan Crumbley's victims seen on display at a memorial at Oxford High School in 2021.
Photos of Ethan Crumbley's victims seen on display at a memorial at Oxford High School in 2021.

Photos of Ethan Crumbley's victims seen on display at a memorial at Oxford High School in 2021.

“No parents would purchase a weapon if they believed their child had mental illnesses,” attorney Shannon Smith said. “These are people who had two other guns in the house for months where nothing ever happened with those guns.”

When she took the stand, Crumbley said she had no regrets about how she handled the situation.

“I’ve asked myself if I would have done anything differently and I wouldn’t have,” she said.

Smith also argued that finding her client guilty would set a dangerous precedent.

“Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do, especially when it’s not foreseeable?” Smith asked.

Crumbley and her husband fled as prosecutors announced charges against them in December 2021. Though their attorneys said that they had simply left town for their own safety, they failed to appear at an arraignment that day. Hours later, police found them in hiding in a commercial building about 40 miles from Oxford and said there was no indication that the couple planned to surrender.

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