Trial for Michigan school shooter’s mother: Revelations from testimony, evidence in historic case

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Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, gave hours of testimony this week in her criminal trial related to the mass shooting her son committed in 2021.

Jennifer Crumbley and her husband, James Crumbley, who is being tried separately, are each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in Ethan Crubley’s killing of four students  — Tate Myre, 16, Justin Shilling, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Madisyn Baldwin, 17 — at Oxford High Nov. 30, 2021.

“As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers,” Jennifer Crumbley said on the witness stand Thursday while answering questions from the defense. “You never would think you’d have to protect your child from harming someone else. That’s what blew my mind. That was the hardest thing I had to stomach is that my child harmed and killed other people.”

She stopped short of calling herself a victim, saying the true victims in the case are the families of the deceased, but she added that she has lost “a lot” as a result of the shooting and her son’s actions. Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shootings, pleaded guilty to his crimes last year and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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“Of course, I look back after all this happened, and I have asked myself if I would have done anything differently. I wouldn’t have.” Jennifer said.

“I wish he would have killed us instead.”

— Jennifer Crumbley

Jennifer and her husband are accused of illegally purchasing a gun for their 15-year-old son, which he used in the school shooting. They are also accused of ignoring his pleas for help, and prosecutors have presented text messages and emails from Jennifer Crumbley in court to prove she did not take her son’s complaints seriously.

James and Jennifer are the first parents to be charged in a school shooting.

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“There were a couple of times when Ethan expressed anxiety over taking tests,” she testified Thursday. “Anxiety about what he was going to do after high school. College? Military? But not at the level where I felt he needed to see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional.”

Jennifer broke down Thursday while watching a video of the shooting played in court.

She also answered questions from the state on Friday. Prosecutors suggested she could have stopped the shooting before it happened when she arrived at Oxford High on the morning of Nov. 30, 2021, to meet with school counselors after Ethan was caught scrawling disturbing notes in class.

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His notes included an image of a gun and the phrases “Help me,” “Blood everywhere” and “My life is useless,” along with a drawing of a gun.

“You could have been with him,” Oakland County assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said Friday.

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“I could have, yes,” Jennifer Crumbley testified.

“And you didn’t,” Keast said.

Instead of taking their son home, prosecutors alleged, Jennifer and her husband left him at school and went about their day. Ethan later took a gun from his backpack and shot a total of 11 people, four of whom died.

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Prosecutors also said Ethan Crumbley made a 19-minute video the day before the shooting describing what he was going to do in school the next day.

After the shooting, the Crumbleys allegedly fled Oxford and went to Detroit following some initial questioning from police. U.S. Marshals eventually apprehended them days later, on Dec. 4, 2021.

“The minute this shooting became public and ended up in the paper, in the media, Jennifer Crumbley started telling a story, and then she ran. And she didn’t run just because she was selfish. … She ran, and she started deleting text messages, and she started telling a different story because she knew she did something wrong,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said in her closing statements Friday.

“She wants you to believe she’s somebody she’s not.”

— Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald

Detectives who did a general sweep of the Crumbleys’ home in Oxford prior to obtaining search warrants testified in Jennifer’s case on Wednesday. Photos presented of the home in court showed a disheveled home before authorities conducted a search. The detective said the home was likely in its normal state when they conducted the initial sweep.

Photos showed shooting range targets with bullet holes hung up in Ethan’s messy bedroom. A second bedroom, which was also apparently the shooter’s room, also appeared messy, with items on the floor and on his bed.

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Authorities found a gun safe on a shelf in James and Jennifer Crumbley’s bedroom. The safe had two guns inside. 

Inside Ethan Crumbley’s room, police found spent shell casings on a nightstand on the day of the shooting. They also found an empty bottle of whiskey beside his bed and knives on a shelving unit.

Jennifer Crumbley testified that her husband was generally in charge of keeping the family’s guns stored and secured inside their home. 

Jennifer’s defense attorney, Paulette Loftin, argued that the prosecution “cherry-picked evidence” to accuse Jennifer of involuntary manslaughter.

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“It’s obvious real life is messy and complicated. And during this trial, I will openly admit that I’m a lawyer who messes up. … I am a human being, and so is Mrs. Crumbley, and that’s what this case is about. She’s not a perfect person or a perfect parent,” Loftin said in her closing statements

Loftin added that the shooting “was clearly not foreseeable to Mrs. Crumbley.”

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