James Crumbley: Father of teenage Michigan school shooter convicted – after wife also found guilty

James Crumbley: Father of teenage Michigan school shooter convicted - after wife also found guilty

The father of a teenager who shot four classmates dead has been found guilty of manslaughter a month after his wife was also convicted.

Ethan Crumbley is serving life in prison for murder after killing four classmates at Oxford High School, near Detroit, in Michigan, in November 2021, when he was 15.

In a landmark case, his mother Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was found guilty of four counts of manslaughter – one for each victim – in February this year.

After prosecutors argued Ethan’s father also bore responsibility because he and his wife gave their son the gun and ignored signs of violence, James Crumbley, 47, was convicted on Thursday.

The Crumbleys were the first parents to be charged with manslaughter in a child’s school shooting in a country where such incidents are relatively common.

Gun safety experts hope the Crumbley trials serve as a wake-up call for parents to secure weapons in their homes, with 75% of school shooters getting guns from home, according to government research.

“This is a very egregious and rare, rare set of facts,” prosecutor Karen McDonald told the jury on Wednesday.

Jennifer and James Crumbley in court. Pic: AP

Ms McDonald said James Crumbley repeatedly ignored warning signs his son was deeply disturbed, did not get him help, and did not do enough to safely store the firearm in the family home.

“He did nothing over and over and over again,” she added.

Ms McDonald also presented texts Ethan sent to a friend and journal entries in the months before the shooting, in which he talked about wanting medical help and hearing voices, but he was worried his parent would be “pissed”.

On one occasion, according to a text message to a friend, Ms McDonald said Ethan had asked James Crumbley to take him to the doctor, but his dad “gave me some pills and told me to suck it up”.

Defendant Jennifer Crumbley appears during her jury trial at the Oakland County Courthouse, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, in Pontiac, Mich. Crumbley, 45, is on trial for involuntary manslaughter, the first time parents have been charged in a U.S. mass school shooting. She and her husband are accused of contributing to the deaths at Oxford High School by neglecting their son's needs and making a gun accessible at home. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News via AP, Pool)
Jennifer Crumbley. Pic: Detroit News via AP

Defence lawyer Mariell Lehman argued James Crumbley could not have possibly foreseen his son would carry out a mass shooting.

“James had no idea that his son was having a hard time,” Ms Lehman told jurors, saying no evidence had been presented that James knew the contents of his son’s text messages or journal.

‘The thoughts won’t stop – help me’

According to prosecutors, James Crumbley bought the gun used in the attack four days before the shootings.

Ethan Crumbley
Ethan Crumbley. Pic Reuters

On the morning of the shootings, on 30 November, a teacher found drawings by Ethan showing a handgun, a bullet and a bleeding figure next to the words “blood everywhere”, “my life is useless”, and “the thoughts won’t stop – help me”.

Summoned to the school that same morning, the Crumbleys were told Ethan needed counselling and they needed to take him home, according to prosecutors.

But the couple wouldn’t take their son, prosecutors said, and did not search his rucksack or ask him about the gun.

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Both of the Crumbleys challenged that account in their trials, saying teachers in the meeting mutually agreed Ethan could remain in school that day and at no point did they think he posed a danger.

Ethan was returned to class and later walked out of a bathroom with the gun and began firing, according to prosecutors, killing 14-year-old Hana St Juliana, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling and injuring seven other people.

Jennifer Crumbley is set to be sentenced on 9 April.