Jury finds Michigan school shooter’s mother Jennifer Crumbley guilty of manslaughter
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan jury convicted a school shooter’s mother of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students in 2021.
Prosecutors said Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent and could have foreseen the violence before her son opened fire at Oxford High School.
She failed to tell school officials that the family had a new 9 mm handgun that Ethan Crumbley ultimately used to kill other teens. The mother was accused of making the gun accessible at home and not tending to her son’s mental health.
The school was concerned about a macabre drawing of a gun, bullet and wounded man on the 15-year-old’s math assignment, accompanied by desperate words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” But Ethan was allowed to stay in school Nov. 30, 2021, following a brief meeting with the parents, who did not take him home.
The teen pulled the gun from his backpack that afternoon and shot 10 students and a teacher, killing four students. No one had checked his backpack.
The gun had been purchased just four days earlier on Black Friday by his father, James Crumbley. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range that same weekend.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, told jurors that she would not have done anything differently but wished her son had “killed us instead.” She denied that he had mental health problems.
James Crumbley 47, is scheduled for trial in March on the same involuntary manslaughter charges. Ethan, now 17, is serving a life sentence for murder and terrorism.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
A jury in Michigan reached a verdict Tuesday in the involuntary manslaughter trial of a school shooter’s mother in the deaths of four students in 2021.
The jury began deliberations Monday, after seven days of testimony ended Friday.
Prosecutors say Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent when she failed to tell Oxford High School that the family had guns, including a 9 mm handgun that her son, Ethan Crumbley, used at a shooting range on the weekend before the Nov. 30, 2021, attack.
The jury — six men and six women including some gun owners or people who grew up with guns — had sent a note to the judge Monday afternoon asking if it could “infer anything” from prosecutors not presenting Ethan Crumbley or others to explain specifically how he got access to a gun at home to shoot up Oxford High School.
“The answer is no,” Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews said. “You’re only allowed to consider the evidence that was admitted in the case.”
Prosecutors say Jennifer Crumbley had a duty under Michigan law to prevent her son, who was 15 at the time, from harming others. She’s accused of failing to secure a gun and ammunition at home and failing to get help for her son’s mental health.
The morning of Nov. 30, 2021, school staff members were concerned about a violent drawing of a gun, bullet and wounded man, accompanied by desperate phrases, on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment. He was allowed to stay in school following a meeting with his parents, who didn’t take him home.
A few hours later, Ethan Crumbley pulled a handgun from his backpack and shot 10 students and a teacher, killing four peers. No one had checked the backpack.
The gun was the Sig Sauer 9 mm his father, James Crumbley, purchased with him just four days earlier. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range that same weekend.
“You’re the last adult to have possession of that gun,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said while cross-examining Jennifer Crumbley last week. “You saw your son shoot the last practice round before the (school) shooting on Nov. 30. You saw how he stood. … He knew how to use the gun.”
The teen’s mom replied, “Yes, he did.”
Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism and is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors were not required to call him as a witness to try to prove their case against Jennifer Crumbley.
Her lawyer argued last week that the teen actually might be able to help her defense. It didn’t matter: The judge kept him off the witness stand because attorneys for Ethan Crumbley said he would cite his right to remain silent. He still might appeal his sentence.
Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. James Crumbley, 47, faces trial in March.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, told jurors that it was her husband’s job to keep track of the gun. She also said she saw no signs of mental distress in her son.
“We would talk. We did a lot of things together,” she testified. “I trusted him, and I felt I had an open door. He could come to me about anything.”
In a journal found by police, Ethan Crumbley wrote that his parents wouldn’t listen to his pleas for help.
“I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” he wrote.
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