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James Crumbley trial told ‘three people were responsible’ for Michigan school shooting

His wife and son were both convicted — now a Michigan jury will determine whether James Crumbley sees the same fate

Kelly Rissman
Thursday 07 March 2024 21:07 GMT
Moment Jennifer Crumbley found guilty of manslaughter

James Crumbley, the father of the convicted Oxford high school shooter, is set to appear in an Oakland County, Michigan courtroom on Thursday 7 March.

Jury selection began on 5 March — just a month after Jennifer Crumbley, the defendant’s wife, was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Mr Crumbley faces the same charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Crumbleys’ son fatally shot four of his classmates in November 2021. In December, the 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Now, Mr Crumbley faces a jury.

Throughout his wife’s trial, the defence team pointed fingers at him as being responsible for everything to do with firearms, saying she was uncomfortable dealing with guns. Last month’s trial revealed that Mr Crumbley went to a gun store with his teenage son to purchase what would become the murder weapon four days later.

Mr Crumbley’s defence will have to emphasise his dedication to gun storage, if his wife’s trial serves as precedent.

The jury foreperson said after Jennifer Crumbley’s guilty verdict was read: “The thing that really hammered it home is that she was the last adult with the gun”.


What we know about James Crumbley’s trial

Jury selection is slated to begin on 5 March.

Although his legal team tried to get his trial moved out of Oakland County — citing the national attention his wife’s case garnered — to no avail, Fox 2 reported.

Lawyers on both sides are also arguing over whether the troubled teenager’s journal entries should be admissible in court. A judge will make the final decision.

Ethan Crumbley had written a series of disturbing journal entries, including one that read: “I will have to find where my dad hid my gun before I can shoot (up) the school.”

However, that piece of evidence was not permitted in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial, the Detroit Free Press reported, yet jurors were allowed to hear other entries and texts regarding Ethan requesting help from his parents for his mental health issues, which they allegedly ignored.

It’s not yet clear whether the entry will be allowed to be used in James Crumbley’s trial.

This journal entry could potentially bolster what Mr Crumbley told police in a videotaped interview right after the shooting. Mr Crumbley said that the weapon was hidden in a gun case in an armoire and that the bullets were “in a completely different spot underneath some jeans.”

Ethan Crumbley refused to testify in either of his parent’s trials.

If convicted, Mr Crumbley also faces up to 60 years in prison — 15 years per count.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:22

Why is James Crumbley on trial?

James Crumbley now faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, as prosecutors accused him of ignoring his son’s mental health condition and making the gun accessible at home.

His wife was convicted of the same charges last month.

Four days before the shooting on 30 November 2021, James bought his son a gun, which Ethan described on Instagram as his “new beauty”.

Jennifer then took her son to a shooting range.

A few days later, a teacher noticed the high school sophomore searching online for ammunition, sparking concerned school administrators to contact his parents.

Instead of responding to the school, his mother allegedly texted her son: “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

On the day of the shooting, a teacher found a disturbing drawing on Ethan’s desk depicting a school massacre, featuring a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words “the thoughts won’t stop help me”, prosecutors said.

The school staff then met with Ethan and his parents.

Although the school staff urged Ethan to seek psychiatric help that day and to go home early, his parents rejected the idea and he remained at school.

Jennifer Crumbley testified that her husband had hidden the gun before their son took it to school.

Later that day, their son opened fire, taking the lives of four classmates: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17.

After hearing reports of the shooting at Oxford High, Jennifer allegedly sent a text to Ethan that read, “Ethan, don’t do it,” as James drove directly home and reported his gun missing.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:27

Who are the Crumbleys?

Jennifer, 45, worked in marketing at a real estate firm and James, 47, worked for DoorDash, according to court documents.

The pair initially came under scrutiny for their strange behaviour in the aftermath of the shooting. Reports showed the couple drained their son’s bank account.

They withdrew cash, sold their horses, and bought four burner phones in the hours after finding out that their son had opened fire.

When they were arrested four days after the shooting, the couple reportedly had $6,600 in cash, credit cards, gift cards and four phones.

At the time, the Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said that “they started making plans”.

Jennifer texted someone that she “needed to sell her horses fast” and the couple “drained their son’s bank account” later that day, taking out $3,000 and leaving a mere 99 cents, Ms McDonald said.

The pair also checked into a hotel. The defence attorney told the jury on 25 January that the Crumbleys had been receiving “death threats” at their home, so they went to a hotel to seek refuge.

Fearful, the pair bought burner phones. The defence lawyer also explained to jurors that they bought two pairs of burner phones because they couldn’t access their bank accounts with their original burners, since they weren’t able to do the necessary two-factor authentication.

The Crumbleys then stayed at an artist studio, belonging to Jennifer’s friend, where they were arrested the next day, on 4 December. They were supposed to have turned themselves in on the afternoon of 3 December, but failed to do so, resulting in a manhunt.

The defence attorney told the court that the couple “weren’t hiding,” but “waiting for instructions” and they were “waiting to turn themselves in first thing Saturday morning, when arraignments take place”.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:28

Opening statements begin, echoing his wife’s case

Much of the phrasing in the prosecutor’s opening statements was recycled from Jennifer Crumbley’s trial — but with an added emphasis on James Crumbley and his knowledge of guns.

“The shooting was foreseeable — especially to his father,” Oakland County assistant prosecutor Marc Keast told the court on Thursday.

The prosecutor accused the parents of not paying attention to their son’s mental health: “Instead of receiving help or intervention of any kind, James Crumbley instead began taking his son to the shooting range.”

Mr Crumbley and Ethan went to the range together on a “consistent basis” over the next few months, he said, showing photos of the pair at the range.

On top of this, Mr Keast argued, “James and Jennifer spent quite a bit a time away from their home, tending to their horses. That’s what he was doing the morning of the shooting.”

He then pulled up text messages that not only showed that Mr Crumbley was caring for the horses on 30 November 2021, but also another message from his wife.

“I’m very concerned,” a text message sent from Jennifer Crumbley to her husband revealed. “Unfortunately, they kept that concern to themselves,” and didn’t share that with the school, Mr Keast said.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:48

Mr Crumbley ‘knew the origin of’ the shooter’s disturbing drawing: prosecutor

Prosecutor Marc Keast said in his opening statements, “There is no claim that James Crumbley gave his son that firearm hoping he would hurt four students” so how can a father be held responsible for the intentional acts of a teenage son?

Mr Crumbley isn’t charged with murder — he’s charged with involuntary manslaughter “which is rooted in negligence,” he said. It takes gross negligence, causation of death, and that person’s actions are reasonably foreseeable.

Prosecutors also pulled up the shooter’s disturbing drawing of a firearm, saying Mr Crumbley “knew the origin of this drawing.”

The case is not about guns — storage or laws — but is about this gun, Mr Keast said, showing the shooter’s drawing. “This kid was begging for a more deadly weapon. That’s why we’re here.”

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:50

Defence’s opening statements begin

The defence attorney Mariell Lehman told jurors to pay attention to what they won’t hear.

“You will not hear that Mr Crumbley knew what his son was going to do,” she said. “He did not know what his son was planning. He did not purchase that gun with knowledge that his son was going to harm other people.”

Ms Lehman defended her client’s former job. “Being a DoorDash driver doesn’t mean your job is any less important than any other job,” she said, which comes in striking contrast to what his wife’s defence attorney said, emphasising that it was more difficult for her to leave her job compared to her husband.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:54

A short break

After hearing speedy opening statements, the court will take a brief break.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 14:54

What happened in Jennifer Crumbley’s trial?

His wife’s trial began on 23 January. In their opening statements, the prosecution and defence portrayed two very different versions of the shooter’s mother.

The prosecution argued that Jennifer understood that her son was experiencing a “downward spiral”, but still, the “gun was gifted”.

This trial was about her “willful disregard of the danger that she knew of”, the prosecutor said, adding that Jennifer and her husband “didn’t do any number of tragically small and easy things that would have prevented all this from happening”.

“Jennifer Crumbley didn’t pull the trigger that day. But she’s responsible for their deaths,” the attorney said.

The defence team, by contrast, described Jennifer as a “hypervigilant” mother who “cared more about her son than anything in the world”.

She took her son to soccer practice, basketball, bowling, and even took him to urgent care when a 1mm mole changed colour, the defence said.

Despite this claim, the attorney insisted that her client didn’t “have it on her radar in any way that there was any mental disturbance, that her son would ever take a gun into a school, that her son would ever shoot people.”

Read the full story...

Why Michigan school shooter’s father is going on trial over murders

In two historic trials, prosecutors are seeking to hold the parents of the convicted shooter responsible for the massacre. Kelly Rissman reports

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 15:15

First witness takes the stand

Molly Darnell, an educator at Oxford Community Schools, testified. She was also the first witness in Jennifer Crumbley’s case and is survivor of the November 2021 shooting.

She choked up when she started talking about the students that she knew, including children of faculty.

Ms Darnell said she was in room 224 on 30 November, adding that she typically kept her door open.

When asked about that day, she described kids running by as a “movement that I’ve never seen before...there was a hyper-ness to the voices and it was almost like they were pushing forward, trying to move as fast as possible.” Her voice shaking, she said, it was “unusual.”

Ms Darnell said she then moved into the hallway to see what was going on. Ms Darnell said, “It was silent. There was no noise.”

After 10 seconds, she heard “three things really close together.” One was an annoucement from the principal saying the school was going into lockdown, a loud “pop, pop, pop,” and doors slamming, she said.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 15:41

A teacher testifies

Ms Darnell, who said she has no experience with firearms, said the “pop” noise could have been confused for “lockers slamming.” She said she didn’t initially register that it sounded like guns firing.

After hearing the three sounds in rapid succession, she closed her door and put the night lock on the door.

She testified that she locked eyes with Ethan Crumbley, who she did not know or recognize. She noted he was wearing glasses.

“I realize that he’s raising a gun to me,” she said, “I remember thinking in my head, ‘there’s no orange tip on the gun.’” She explained that she once heard that BB guns have orange tips.

Realizing what was happening, Ms Darnell said she jumepd to the right and feels her shoulder move back. “It feels like I was stung by hot water,” she said. That’s when she noticed a “bullet hole leading out to the courtyard” in a window. Ms Darnell started choking up.

Ms Darnell said her instinct was then to “barricade the door.” So she tried to grab the filing cabinet to block the door but it was too heavy. She didn’t even realize that she had been shot, Ms Darnell testified.

”You were shot that day,” Prosecutor Karen McDonald said. Ms Darnell then removed her jacket and showed the jury her gunshot wounds, including the entry and exit wounds and “where the bullet cauderized my flesh.”

On that day, Ms Darnell said she was able to crawl “the length of the door” and secured the night lock under the door before moving the rolling court in front of the door.

Then, she recalled, that she was “concerned that he’s going to come back around to those [back] windows,” Ms Darnell said, so she tried to hide in the classroom.

That’s when she started to feel “blood rolling down my arm,” she testified. “I don’t think I was admitting that I was shot.”

All she could think about was to apply a tourniquet on her arm where she was bleeding. Unable to reach the first aid bag, she wrapped her cardigan around her arm, she testified.

Kelly Rissman7 March 2024 15:54

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