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Oxford school shooter’s mom said her ‘biggest fear was that he was gonna turn the gun on himself,’ prosecutors say

Dec 16, 2022, 4:36 PM
ROCHESTER HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 14: James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley appear in 52nd District Cou...
ROCHESTER HILLS, MI - DECEMBER 14: James Crumbley and Jennifer Crumbley appear in 52nd District Court for a probable cause conference in the case of the Oxford High School mass shooting December 14, 2021 in Rochester Hills, Michigan. James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of 15 year-old Ethan Crumbley who allegedly shot 10 of his schoolmates and 1 teacher at Oxford High School, killing 4 of them, each face 4 counts of involuntary manslaughter for their alleged role. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Prosecutors in Michigan disclosed more evidence in recent court filings they say shows the mother of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley knew about his unhealthy mental state when the parents bought him a gun last November.

“You know my biggest fear was that he was gonna turn the gun on himself,” Jennifer Crumbley, his mother, said in the back of the police car after the shooting, according to one filing.

The quote was included in a filing from Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald that opposed the parents’ latest effort to appeal their bond that has kept them behind bars for over a year.

The filings stem from the mass shooting at Oxford High School in which Ethan Crumbley, 15 at the time, killed four students and injured six students and a teacher at his high school. He pleaded guilty in October to terrorism and murder charges and faces up to life in prison without parole.

In an unusual move, prosecutors arrested his parents and accused them of giving their son easy access to a firearm and disregarding signs he was a threat. The parents were arrested days after the shooting in a Detroit warehouse following a manhunt after they failed to come to court for their initial arraignment.

James and Jennifer Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to four counts of involuntary manslaughter and have argued that the charges have no legal justification and the couple should not be held responsible for their son’s killings.

In the court filings, the prosecution says Jennifer Crumbley told law enforcement she hadn’t looked closely at her son’s disturbing drawings in school the day of the shooting.

“In Jennifer Crumbley’s statement to the police, Jennifer minimizes her knowledge of, and concern about, her son’s mental health crisis. For example, when she was asked about the extremely disturbing drawings made by her son just before the shooting, she said that she ‘didn’t even look at them that closely,'” the filing says.

However, screenshots of Facebook messages included in the court documents show she expressed concern over the drawings to her husband, saying things like “Call NOW. Emergency,” the court filing states.

Jennifer Crumbley later says in the messages, “I’m very concerned.”

The parents attempted to delete their Facebook accounts where some of those messages were recovered, the prosecutor’s memo says.

Prosecutors also pointed out that Ethan Crumbley confirmed the murder weapon was not properly locked up in the family home, as the parents’ defense attorneys have previously argued. The shooter confirmed that fact under oath when he pleaded guilty in October.

Parents say they are not flight risk

Prosecutors presented some of the evidence in the case at a preliminary hearing in February, after which a judge ruled there was enough evidence to proceed to trial in January 2023.

However, the Michigan Supreme Court delayed the start of the trial and sent the cases to the Court of Appeals to determine “whether there was sufficient evidence of causation to bind the defendants over for trial on the charges of involuntary manslaughter.” The court’s order was unusual and suggests the judges have concerns about the case, CNN legal analyst Paul Callan said at the time.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, held on bonds each set at $500,000 in cash or surety, filed a motion last week asking the court to set lower bonds or release them on electronic supervision.

“Throughout this case, the prosecution has advanced an inaccurate narrative to make the Crumbleys sound like they were fleeing prior to their arrest,” the motion alleges.

The couple wrote they never tried to flee in the days after the shooting but stayed in-state and retained counsel. Law enforcement advised them to leave their home due to dangerous threats against their lives after the shooting, and local family members wouldn’t take them in out of fear, so they stayed at a friend’s art studio in Detroit to try to be discreet, the motion states.

“What the Crumbleys were attempting to avoid was being threatened and hurt by members of the public who were rightfully emotional and angry. Further, they also needed money from their various accounts to secure attorneys, to live on, and again, to avoid going into banks and showing identification as to who they were,” the motion says.

Attorneys for the couple “called and left messages for Prosecutor McDonald regarding the Crumbleys on December 3, 2021. Instead of calling back, Ms. McDonald announced charges at a press conference.” They were waiting for a call back from the prosecutor’s office as to instructions to turn themselves in, the motion says.

They were found asleep on an air mattress in the studio when they were found and arrested December 4. The couple missed a scheduled arraignment the day their charges were filed, prompting a search that ended in an early-morning arrest at a Detroit industrial building about 40 miles from Oxford, the Detroit Police chief said then. CNN shot exclusive video of the arrest.

The Crumbleys sold their home, according to the motion, to pay legal fees and because they determined it would not be safe to stay there due to threats. They have a place to stay if they are released on bond.

They argue they are not a threat to the community in part because their son is in custody and all of their guns, including BB guns, were seized by law enforcement.

The Oakland County Circuit judge ruled in an order Tuesday that she does not have the jurisdiction to rule on the bond issue because of the pending appeal. The parties in the case are under a gag order, unable to communicate with the press.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the date when Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty. It was in October.


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Oxford school shooter’s mom said her ‘biggest fear was that he was gonna turn the gun on himself,’ prosecutors say