Trial of Jennifer Crumbley, Oxford school shooter’s mother, to begin Tuesday

Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Oxford, Mich., teen who killed four students in 2021, heads to trial Tuesday in a high-profile case that marks the first time parents of a school shooter have faced involuntary manslaughter charges related to their child’s crime.

The Crumbley parents acknowledge that they bought their son a gun in the days before the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School, but they are not accused of knowing about their son’s plan. Prosecutors say the parents gave their son access to a deadly weapon while ignoring his mental health struggles, including ones raised by his teachers on the day of the shooting.

James and Jennifer Crumbley have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

The parents were initially set to be tried together but were granted separate trials last year to ensure fair proceedings for both, their defense attorneys said in filings. They face historic charges in connection to the deaths of Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17. In December, their son Ethan Crumbley was sentenced to life without parole more than a year after pleading guilty to two dozen charges, including one count of terrorism causing death and four counts of first-degree murder for killing his schoolmates. Seven others were wounded in the shooting.

Jennifer Crumbley will be the first parent to stand trial while her husband, James, faces trial March 5 on identical charges.

The Crumbley trials are expected to be a bellwether for future cases involving charges of gross negligence against the parents of minors who commit deadly mass killings. Oakland County Prosecutor Karen D. McDonald made headlines in 2021 when she announced that she was charging the parents.

During a December 2021 news conference announcing the charges, McDonald said parents of mass shooters should not necessarily face charges in every case, but she called the facts in the Crumbley case “egregious.”

The day of the shooting, the parents had been summoned to the school to discuss violent images and messages their son scrawled on his homework — including a drawing of a gun and the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” McDonald said the parents had a duty that day to tell the school that they had recently bought him a gun.

“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know their son had access to a deadly weapon, that they gave him, is unconscionable,” McDonald said, calling their actions “criminal.”

Neither the prosecution nor the defense have been allowed to comment on the case due to a gag order in place since 2022.

While the Crumbleys are not accused of knowing about their son’s plan, prosecutors have underscored the fact that they were the ones who purchased the gun for their son; the parents are accused of providing their son with a gun while ignoring his mental health struggles. The Crumbleys are also accused of negligence by failing to properly secure the gun at home, an issue that is expected to be fought over during the trials. The shooter has disputed his parents’ assertion that they locked the gun away. Michigan did not have a “safe storage law” in 2021. As of this year, the state requires people to secure firearms if a minor may be present.

If found guilty, the Crumbleys each face up to 15 years in prison.

While anger at the Crumbley family has swirled in the suburban Detroit community since the shooting, one person who is not blaming the parents is the shooter himself. He made a rare statement during his December sentencing hearing and referred to himself as a “really bad person.”

“We’re all here today because of what I did. My actions, what I chose to do,” Crumbley said. He absolved his parents of responsibility and asked the judge to give him the life sentence his victims requested.

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