Ethan Crumbley’s parents denied $500,000 bail reduction in Oxford school shooting case

They’re accused of failing to prevent the November school shooting, which killed four

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Friday 07 January 2022 22:19
Ethan Crumbley lawyers say he should be held at juvenile jail for his ‘mental wellbeing’

The parents of alleged Oxford school shooter Ethan Crumbley won’t be able to lower the $500,000 individual bail requirements they are facing ahead of their trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, a Michigan court decided on Friday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of failing to stop Ethan from allegedly killing four of his classmates and injuring others at a high school in Oxford, Michigan, this November.

Ethan’s parents purchased the gun used in the shooting, and declined to withdraw Ethan from school despite warnings from his teachers the day of the shooting he had made violent drawings. After being arrested, they had sought to lower their bail to $100,000, and offered to wear GPS monitors if released.

But district court judge Julie Nicholson declined their request, The Detroit News reported, citing the couple’s apparent attempt to flee their arrest by hiding in an “abandoned” building in Detroit after withdrawing thousands in cash from an ATM. (The Crumbleys have insisted they had been worried about their safety at the time and planned to turn themselves in.)

“These are not the actions of people who are trying to turn themselves in,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said during the 30-minute zoom hearing on Friday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley face charges of manslaughter and negligence, to which they have pleaded not guilty. Ethan is charged with 24 separate counts, including first-degree murder, terrorism, and felony firearms charges, and has indicated he’s considering a guilty plea.

During the hearing on Friday, prosecutors again argued that the Crumbleys should’ve seen the sign their son was allegedly considering perpetrating violence, including allegedly filling a notebook with drawings of guns, searching online for information about school shootings, and filming himself killing and torturing animals.

“He displayed terrifying tendencies and behaviors, and he literally sketched out what he planned to do in his journal in his drawings," assistant prosecutor Mark Keast said at the hearing.

Attorneys for the Crumbleys argued officials haven’t shown a direct link between James and Jennifer’s conduct and the horrific shooting.

“In Ethan’s journal, which was provided in discovery, he explicitly states that he has to find where his dad hid the firearm,” argued lawyer Mariell Lehman on Friday. “That statement, from Ethan Crumbley in his own words, is kind of contrary to the false and misleading assertions that have been made by the prosecution in this case, the assertions that the firearm was freely accessible.”

The couple has said they were “devastated” to learn of the school shooting, though prosecutors allege a lax attitude towards their son’s alleged fascination with guns was partially responsible for it.

“The Crumbleys, like every parent and community member, are devastated by the school shooting,” their attorney Shannon Smith said in a court filing. “The last thing they expected was that a school shooting would take place, or that their son would be responsible.”

Ethan was present on 26 November when his father purchased the 9mm Sig Sauer used in the shooting, and even though his dad made the purchase, Ethan Crumbley seemed viewed the gun as for his personal use.

“Just got my new beauty today. Sig Sauer 9mm. Any questions I will answer,” Ethan posted on now-deleted social media that same day, according to officials.

The following day, he and his mother headed to a shooting range to practice with the weapon, with Jennifer describing the outing as “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present”.

Neither Jennifer nor James Crumbley alerted school officials that Ethan had easy access to a semi-automatic handgun, according to prosecutors, even once they had been warned he was showing interest in seeking ammunition at school and making violent drawings.

School officials tried on multiple occasions to warn the Crumbley parents that their son was allegedly considering violence at school.

In the days before the shooting, Oxford High School left both a voicemail and an email with the family that a teacher had spied Ethan searching for information about ammunition online, which was met with no response to officials.

Jennifer, however, did allegedly text Ethan, writing, “Lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

Things escalated on 30 November, the morning of the shooting, when officials called both parents into school, after finding an alarming drawing of Ethan’s that featured pictures of guns, laughing emoji, and messages like “my life is useless” and “the thoughts won’t stop, help me”.

School personnel showed the parents the drawing, advising them to put Ethan in counseling immediately, according to prosecutors.

“James and Jennifer Crumbley resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time. Instead Jennifer and James Crumbley left the high school without their son,” said Ms McDonald, the prosecutor.

Once there were reports that a shooting had occured at the school that day, Jennifer allegedly sent a text to Ethan that read, “Ethan, don’t do it,” while James drove straight home and reported his gun missing.

In their filing this Wednesday, attorneys for the parents said that text was Ms Crumbley pleading with her son not to kill himself, rather than an acknowledgement of knowing about plans for the shooting.

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