James Crumbley is about to go on trial over Michigan mass shooting. His son’s journal could seal his fate

‘I will have to find where my dad hid my gun before I can shoot (up) the school,’ the entry in question reads

Kelly Rissman
Thursday 07 March 2024 15:17 GMT
Crumbley’s parents first police interview after school shooting

James Crumbley, the father of the Michigan high school shooter, is going on trial next week, when a valuable piece of evidence may make or break his case.

His wife, Jennifer Crumbley, became the first parent to ever be convicted for a mass shooting committed by her child, Ethan Crumbley. She was convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter; her husband faces the same charges and has pleaded not guilty.

The 17-year-old, who last year was sentenced to life without parole, 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.” A judge is expected to decide this week on whether the entry is admissible.

This line could be favourable for Mr Crumbley’s defence, as prosecutors argue that he and his wife ignored their their troubled son’s mental health and gave him easy access to a firearm in their home.

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 unclear whether the entry will be allowed to be used in James Crumbley’s trial.

James Crumbley appears in court for a preliminary examination on involuntary manslaughter charges in Rochester Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022.
James Crumbley appears in court for a preliminary examination on involuntary manslaughter charges in Rochester Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Throughout his wife’s trial, her defence lawyer painted James Crumbley as being in charge of guns, while she didn’t know much about them.

For example, when she took Ethan to the shooting range, she said that her husband had gotten the gun ready for her by removing the cable lock and putting it in the car.

The trial revealed that Mr Crumbley took his then 15-year-old to purchase the gun that became a murder weapon four days later.

The storage of the gun will likely be a key point in Mr Crumbley’s case 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”.

So not having a journal entry underscoring that Ethan didn’t know where the gun was stored — or Ethan himself, who refused to testify in either of his parents’ trials — could prove difficult for Mr Crumbley’s defence team.

A videotaped police interview right after the November 2021 shooting could also highlight some care that he took to store the gun. In the video, 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”.

If the journal entry is ruled admissible, it could serve as a counter-balance to other entries that will be allowed in court that could hurt Mr Crumbley’s defence, including one in which Ethan Crumbley wrote: “I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the f***ing school.”

Mr Crumbley’s trial begins on 5 March. His wife’s sentencing is scheduled for 9 April.

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