Attorneys for the parents of the Oxford school shooting suspect have insisted that the couple planned to turn themselves in to authorities – despite police finding them hiding in a warehouse close to the Canadian border after they skipped their arraignment on Friday.
Shannon Smith, an attorney for James and Jennifer Crumbley, told the court at their arraignment on Saturday morning that they had not been on the run and that it was “just a matter of logistics” as to when and how they would surrender.
“Our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in,” she claimed.
The parents of 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley were arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning at a commercial warehouse in Detroit, hours after officials launched a manhunt and declared them to be fugitives.
The Crumbleys had been each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter on Friday in connection to Tuesday’s mass shooting, where their teenage son allegedly used a gun they had bought him four days earlier to shoot dead four fellow students and wound seven other people.
The couple were scheduled to appear for their arraignment at 4pm on Friday afternoon but failed to show.
Following their arrests, they appeared for their arraignment on Saturday morning where they both pleaded not guilty to all charges and bond was set at $500,000 each.
Despite the circumstances surrounding their evasion from authorities and subsequent capture, attorneys for the Crumbleys have repeatedly insisted that the couple were not on the lam.
In a statement prior to the arraignment, Ms Smith and fellow attorney Mariell Lehman claimed their clients were planning to surrender on Saturday morning.
“We understand that our clients were apprehended last night although we fully intended to turn them in first thing this morning for arraignment, contrary to the misinformation that has been rampant in the media,” they said.
“Unfortunately, this case presents the most unimaginable tragedy for every single person involved, including every member of the community.
“While it’s human nature to want to find someone to blame or something to point to or something that gives us answers, the charges in this case are intended to make an example and send a message. The prosecution has very much cherry- picked and slanted specific facts to further their narrative to do that.”
They added: “We intend to fight this case in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion. We know that in the end the entire story and truth will prevail.”
The attorneys doubled down on this version of events during Saturday’s arraignment as they argued their clients were “not a flight risk” and accused the prosecution of “making a media spectacle” of the case.
Ms Lehman told the court her clients were “absolutely taking this case seriously” and are “devastated” by the massacre that unfolded this week.
"There’s no risk that they’re going to flee prosecution. They were never fleeing prosecution," she said.
The attorneys claimed they had contacted the prosecutor’s office on Thursday night to arrange the couple’s surrender but that their messages had gone unanswered.
Instead, they claimed Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald announced her decision to bring charges against them in a press conference on Friday.
However, the Oakland County Sheriff’s office said it had not been aware of any such plans for the couple to surrender.
And Detroit Police Chief James White, whose department located the couple early Saturday morning, said that the circumstances in which they were found “isn’t indicative of turning themselves in, hiding in a warehouse”.
The US Marshals Service joined in the manhunt and issued “Wanted” posters, offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to their arrests.
A law enforcement source told CNN on Friday night that the Crumbleys had withdrawn $4,000 cash from an ATM and switched off their mobile phones so that they couldn’t be located.
The couple’s vehicle was located in a parking lot in Detroit before they were tracked down and arrested at a nearby commercial building thanks to a tip-off.
Chief White said in a press briefing early on Saturday morning that the “distressed” couple “appeared to be hiding in the building” less than a mile from the Canadian border.
He added that he believed it was “very likely” the Crumbleys were trying to escape the country.
Prosecutors said the Crumbleys bought the gun for their son as a Christmas present, practised shooting it with him and were aware of warning signs ahead of Tuesday’s violence, but did not remove him from the school or prevent him from accessing the firearm.
Four students died in the mass shooting – Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17 – and one teacher and six students were injured.
Ethan Crumbley has been charged with 24 counts including four charges of first degree murder.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in