Michigan school shooter could have been stopped if mother had taken ‘tragically small’ steps, says prosecutor

‘She is not somebody that used ordinary care to prevent what was reasonably foreseeable,’ the prosecutor argued

Kelly Rissman
Friday 02 February 2024 21:06 GMT
Tearful Jennifer Crumbley takes stand in manslaugher trial

Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley could have been stopped if his mother Jennifer Crumbley had only taken “tragically small” steps to prevent it, the prosecutor said in closing statements at her manslaughter trial.

Ms Crumbley has pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter after her son Ethan Crumbley shot and killed four of his classmates in November 2021. She has been accused of ignoring her teenage son’s declining mental state and making a gun accessible to him.

After almost two weeks of testimony for the prosecution and defence, Ms Crumbley’s team rested its case on Friday after Ms Crumbley completed her cross-examination, paving the way for closing arguments.

In the prosecution’s closing argument, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald stressed Ms Crumbley’s role in the lead-up to the mass shooting saying she could have done a few small things that may have changed the course of what happened.

But instead Ms Crumbley “has done the unthinkable and because of that four kids have died”, she said.

“She is not somebody that used ordinary care to prevent what was reasonably foreseeable,” she said.

Jurors were shown a slide, titled “What Jennifer Didn’t Say,” which listed all of the potential warning signs about her son, starting six months before the shooting.

The list included that the gun was accessible to him, that he had asked for help to go to a doctor, and that he had mentioned seeing demons.

Ms McDonald said there were “tragically small” things Ms Crumbley could have done to have prevented the shooting.

On the morning of the shooting, the Crumbley parents had been called in for a meeting with school staff after a teacher found a disturbing drawing of a gun.

Ms Crumbley “didn’t engage with her son at all in the entire 11 minutes she was there,” Ms McDonald said. “She did not hug him goodbye.”

The prosecutor argued that Ms Crumbley could have stopped by their home to check the gun was where it should have been following the meeting at the high school.

She could have locked the gun away out of reach of her son, she could have taken him home from school, she could have taken him to work, she could have told the school that they had gifted him a gun, Ms McDonald said.

She could have simply told her son at the meeting: “I care about you, I love you.”

The prosecutor also alluded to Ms Crumbley’s testimony earlier in the day, in which she said that she had told her boss that she would be back in “about an hour” after getting the call from school administrators.

Jennifer Crumbley on the witness stand
Jennifer Crumbley on the witness stand (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via AP, Pool)

School officials reportedly gave the Crumbleys a choice: to take Ethan home or to keep him in class for the rest of the day. They opted to keep him in school, as both parents cited they had to return to work. The prosecution underscored Ms Crumbley’s flexible work schedule.

Her boss also testified saying that she could have stayed home on 30 November, the day of the shooting.

Text messages revealed during the testimony of Brian Meloche – her long-time friend and a fire department chief, with whom she was having an affair — show Ms Crumbley saying that she was able to see him later that day.

The prosecutor argued that Ms Crumbley told “two different stories” about her son: one version before the shooting and another version after the shooting.

Before the shooting, Ms Crumbley told witnesses that he was an “oopsie baby” and that he was “acting depressed” and seemed “lonely”. Her son had also expressed that his mother wasn’t responsive to his texts, Ms McDonald said.

Other witnesses testified at the trial that Ms Crumbley told them that her son “can’t be left alone” and that she “needed to get him counselling”.

But, after the shooting, Ms Crumbley claimed he “never has done anything bad” and “never done anything wrong,” trying to create the image of him as a typical teenager.

At the police substation after her son’s arrest, she had admitted that she “wish[ed] we had taken him home” after meeting with school counsellors to speak about his concerning behaviour on the morning of the shooting.

“The facts do not support the story that Jennifer Crumbley told you,” the prosecutor said.

Referring to video footage of shooting practice, Ms McDonald said: “We actually saw the last day he was practicing to kill four of his classmates… There was only one person with him. Her name is Jennifer Crumbley.”

“She is the last person we see with the gun,” Ms McDonald said, showing a photo of her holding the gun in its box.

The prosecutor then highlighted the deadliness of the shooter’s 9mm gun, which was purchased for him four days before the shooting.

“Not only did she gift it to him, but she bragged about it on social media,” Ms McDonald said of Ms Crumbley.

“He was given the murder weapon by his parents,” the prosecutor added.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald gives opening statement in the trial
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald gives opening statement in the trial (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

As well as arguing that Ms Crumbley neglected her son’s needs, Ms McDonald also brought up her obsession with horses – saying this proved what Ms Crumbley “cared about the most” when “her son learned to be a killer”.

Earlier on Friday, the prosecution underscored how much time Ethan spent alone, especially after his closest friend had left the state and his grandma passed away.

Instead of spending time with her son, she spent a lot of time with horses and also with Mr Meloche.

She had told Mr Meloche the day of the shooting, he testified, that the gun was in her car. During her own testimony, Ms Crumbley characterised that as inaccurate, saying that Mr Meloche “must’ve been confused” about the timing.

The prosecution revealed on Friday morning that Ms Crumbley was also spending time on AdultFriendFinder. The site describes itself as the “world’s largest dating and social network for adults”.

The prosecution acknowledged that the trial was expected to span three weeks, but they were “ahead of schedule”.

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