Insider look into Crumbley prosecutors reveals details of school shooter’s parents’ case

On November 30, 2021, a tragic incident unfolded at Oxford High School in Michigan. A 15-year-old boy went on a shooting spree, resulting in the loss of four innocent lives and leaving seven others injured. The gravity of his actions is reflected in his guilty plea to all 24 charges brought against him. As a consequence, he has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Just three days after the shooting occurred, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald made an unprecedented decision. She chose to charge the parents of the shooter, Jennifer and James Crumbley, with involuntary manslaughter. This marks the first instance in the United States where parents have been charged and subsequently convicted for their child’s involvement in a mass shooting.

In an upcoming hourlong documentary on Hulu titled “Sins of the Parents: The Crumbley Trials,” viewers will be granted exclusive behind-the-scenes access as the prosecution meticulously constructs their case over a span of two years. ABC News Studios presents this compelling narrative, providing an in-depth look into the legal proceedings.

McDonald acknowledges in the documentary that as parents, they have a legal responsibility to safeguard others from children who pose a threat.

Chief assistant prosecutor David Williams expressed his concern over parents who chose to ignore their son’s cries for help, ultimately neglecting him. What is even more troubling is that they proceeded to purchase a gun for him.

According to the shooter’s journal entries, he attributed his mental deterioration to his parents, claiming that they failed to listen to him or provide him with a therapist. The evidence presented during the trials also demonstrated the Crumbleys’ involvement in their son’s fascination with firearms.

During their investigation into Ethan’s parents, McDonald and her team came across a text message sent by Jennifer Crumbley to her son. The message stated, “LOL, I’m not mad. You have to learn how not to get caught.” It was evident that Jennifer Crumbley did not express anger towards him upon discovering his research on bullets in class.

In her own defense, Jennifer Crumbley expressed the sentiment of many parents when she said, “As a parent, the primary focus is always on safeguarding our children from external threats. It never crosses our minds that we might need to protect them from causing harm to others.”

James Crumbley’s defense attorney, Mariell Lehman, cautioned that the prosecution’s argument has the potential to establish a risky precedent, potentially blurring the distinction between being a parent and being a criminal.

Lehman believes that when someone is portrayed as a bad parent, their actions can be distorted and labeled as criminal behavior. According to Lehman, James Crumbley was falsely depicted as someone he is not.

During a phone call from jail, James Crumbley made several threatening statements directed towards the Oakland County prosecutor, according to the prosecution.

“When I finally leave this place, Karen, I am going to unleash my fury. Oh yes, Karen McDonald, you better prepare yourself because I’m coming for you and you should be terrified.”

Crumbley’s defense attorney described those comments as expressions of frustration, emphasizing that some of them were made years before the trial commenced.

The Crumbleys were found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and given a prison sentence of 10-15 years.

Judge Cheryl Matthews criticized the Crumbleys for their apparent disregard for firearms and their tendency to romanticize their presence and utilization.

On November 26, 2021, the narrative unfolded at an Oxford gun store. It revolves around parents who turned a blind eye to their son’s pleas for assistance and instead accompanied him in purchasing a Sig Sauer 9-mm. handgun.

According to Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams, entries from the child’s journal revealed his desire for his parents to purchase a gun. Additionally, on the same day, he took to Instagram to announce the arrival of his “new beauty.”

The following day, he accompanied his mother to the gun range, where security cameras recorded him demonstrating how to operate the firearm to her. Just two days after that, a teacher discovered him researching ammunition and promptly left a voicemail for Jennifer Crumbley, expressing concerns.

“I received a call from Oxford High School,” the voicemail informed. “A teacher had sent an email to the office expressing concern. The teacher noticed him on his phone, browsing through bullet-related content.”

Jennifer Crumbley felt a sense of worry as she texted her son about the unsettling voicemail she had just heard, according to evidence presented by the prosecution. Despite her concerns, her son downplayed the situation. In response, she reassured him that she wasn’t angry and advised him to exercise caution in the future.

On November 30, 2021, he submitted his math homework, which featured some drawings. The school counselor promptly notified Jennifer Crumbley, expressing concern over the unsettling nature of the drawings and requesting her presence at the school. In response, she explained that she was unable to come in.

Jennifer Crumbley immediately texted her husband, James, expressing her concerns about the situation. She shared her uneasiness, and in response, James Crumbley expressed his deep concern upon seeing their son’s drawings.

According to Marc Keast, Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, both Jennifer Crumbley and James Crumbley were eventually brought in. The school counselor had advised them to seek help and take their child home, stating that he needed services. However, both parents claimed that they were unable to fulfill this request. It is important to note that they were informed by the school counselor that their child was experiencing suicidal ideation.

During Jennifer Crumbley’s testimony, her attorney, Shannon Smith, raised an objection to the school counselor’s assessment that he did not consider her son to be a threat.

During a press conference, McDonald expressed his disbelief and concern over the fact that a parent could read those words and realize that their son had been provided with a lethal weapon. He found it unacceptable and believed that such actions should be considered both morally wrong and illegal.

According to McDonald, the defense of the individuals involved in the incident was that they had locked their weapon. However, when questioned at the substation, they failed to mention that the weapon was locked, despite being asked multiple times.

According to James Crumbley, he had concealed an unloaded gun in his bedroom armoire and disclosed this information to the police. The evidence presented during the trial indicated that Jennifer Crumbley was the last adult to have the gun in her possession. The jury considered the video footage of Jennifer leaving the shooting range with the gun as the final known evidence of its whereabouts before the shooting occurred. The jury’s forewoman confirmed that this crucial factor played a significant role in finding Jennifer guilty, as she conveyed to the media.

Jennifer Crumbley was convicted on February 6, 2024, for all four charges of involuntary manslaughter. Right after the conclusion of Jennifer Crumbley’s trial, the trial of James Crumbley commenced.

He had a different defense compared to Jennifer Crumbley because he made a 911 call to report his missing gun and claimed that he had no knowledge of someone accessing the hidden weapon he possessed.

According to defense attorney Mariell Lehman, the key factor in this case is determining whether James had reasonable knowledge and foresight regarding his son’s capabilities and intentions. Lehman argues that James had no awareness of his son’s access to the firearms, as he believed he had taken responsible measures to hide and prevent his son from obtaining them.

James Crumbley’s lack of surprise over his son’s access to a gun was the main focus of McDonald and her team.

Williams asked what one would do when faced with the knowledge of what he knew about the gun and his son, and then seeing the drawing. According to Williams, a responsible person would take a few steps. They would inquire about the situation and upon looking at the drawing, they would realize that it is the same gun they recently purchased for him.

James Crumbley was also found guilty on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter, a month later.

According to McDonald, no matter how many years the offender spends in prison, it will not lessen the grief or pain experienced by the victims’ loved ones. Furthermore, it will not bring back the deceased individuals.

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