Demons. Affairs. Guns. The dark world of the Crumbleys focus of hearing

The Crumbleys took a beating in court Tuesday, especially the mother.

Multiple witnesses and prosecutors portrayed Jennifer Crumbley as a woman who was more concerned about her own needs than those of her son, had an affair while her son was spiraling, ignored his texts about "demons" in the house, and failed to get him help, even when she saw red flags.

"She said that she felt like a failure as a parent," testified Amanda Holland, one of Jennifer Crumbley's co-workers.

Her boss, Andrew Smith, said the same thing — that Jennifer Crumbley questioned her parenting after witnessing a picture of a gun that her son had drawn in class, along with the words: "The thoughts won't stop. Help me."

"I think she said she felt like she was failing him," Smith testified Tuesday during a preliminary examination for Jennifer and James Crumbley, who are facing involuntary manslaughter charges in the deadly Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School.

The couple are accused of buying their son the gun that police believe was used in the massacre that left four students dead and injured six students and a teacher. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, is facing terrorism and first-degree murder charges.

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James Crumbley, the parent of Ethan Crumbley who is accused of the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School, sits in the courtroom of Judge Julie Nicholson of 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills.

Five prosecution witnesses testified at Tuesday's preliminary exam in 52-3 District Court in Rochester Hills, after which a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to order the Crumbleys to stand trial. Testimony will resume Wednesday as prosecutors have said they may call as many as 30 witnesses.

'My son ruined so many lives'

Prosecutors also disclosed numerous text messages in court, including those that captured Jennifer Crumbley joking with her son about getting caught searching for bullets on his cellphone at school one day before the shooting.

"Did you at least show them a picture of your new gun?” Jennifer Crumbley texted her son, referring to the gun she and her husband had bought him as an early Christmas present.

"No, I didn’t show them the pic. My god," he texted back.

Jennifer Crumbley assured the teen he was not in trouble, texting: "LOL I’m not mad. You have to learn how to not get caught."

The next day, the Crumbleys were summoned to the school over the troubling gun drawing.

After meeting school officials about Ethan's behavior, Jennifer Crumbley texted a horse farm owner that she was having a "shit day," that her son "couldn't be left alone" and that she would still make her horseback riding lesson that night, according to the farm owner's testimony.

More: Listen to James Crumbley's call to police reporting his missing gun after shootings

More: Witness: Jennifer Crumbley talked about affair, 'lonely' son at work

Jennifer Crumbley told a co-worker she felt like a failure as a parent, it was revealed in court.

That same witness said that Jennifer Crumbley planned on taking her son, Ethan, horseback riding with her that same evening, hoping it would help him deal with the problems he was having at school.

The lesson, though, never happened as Jennifer Crumbley would deliver an alarming message to the horse farmer later that night:

"My son ruined so many lives today."

The witness, Kira Pennock, 25, of Metamora, was the first to testify at the preliminary exam.

Pennock testified that Jennifer Crumbley had previously expressed concern about her son's lifestyle, telling her she thought it was "weird" that Ethan didn't have friends — except for one who moved away — and was on the internet or played video games most of the time.

'OMG — he's going to kill himself'

Smith, a lawyer and CEO of a real estate company where Jennifer Crumbley worked as a marketing director, also testified Tuesday about his communications with the mother on the morning of the shooting. Smith said Jennifer Crumbley texted him about having to leave work to attend a school meeting involving her son.

When she returned to work, Smith said, he asked her how she was doing. She told him that her son needed counseling, and that she felt like she was failing him.

About an hour later, Smith said, he heard yelling and screaming in the office. It was Jennifer Crumbley saying there was an active shooter at her son's school, and that she had to go.

Later that day, Smith said he got a confusing text from Jennifer Crumbley: "The gun is gone and so are the bullets."

Smith said he had no idea what that meant, but texted her back: 'I'm praying everything is OK."

Then came another text.

"OMG Andy. He's going to kill himself. He must be the shooter," Jennifer Crumbley texted her boss.

She followed up with: "Ethan did it."

At 9:30 that same night, she texted Smith again: "I need my job, please don't judge me for what my son did."

Smith said he was alarmed by the text.

“I was surprised she was worried about her job at that point; I thought she would be more concerned about what was going on," Smith testified.

Pennock, the horse farmer, also testified that after the shooting, Jennifer Crumbley texted her: "I wish we had warnings, something. He's a good kid. He made a terrible decision."

'I am mentally and physically dying'

Ethan Crumbley's text messages also came into play during the hearing, with prosecutors alleging they help show the teenager was "disturbed," and ignored by his parents.

Oakland County Sheriff's Det. Edward Wagrowski disclosed the text messages - which he obtained from the teenager's cell phone - which allegedly showed that Ethan Crumbley was hallucinating, hearing voices and reaching out to his parents for help.

" I am going to ask my parents to go to the doctor tomorrow … but this time I’m going to tell them about the voices," Ethan texted a friend on April 5. It was after midnight.

"I only told them about the people I saw," his text continued. "Like, I am mentally and physically dying."

One month earlier, Ethan Crumbley had texted his mom, saying someone was in the house, and he heard a door slam, but no one was there

"Can you get home now. There is is someone in the house i think ...

someone walked in the bathroom and flushed the toilet and left the light on ...

And i thought it was you but when i came out there was no one home."

"Maybe it's just my paranoia," Ethan's text continued. "When are you going to get home?"

Jennifer Crumbley did not respond until the next morning at 10:21 AM, texting: "Where's your dad."

Ten days later came texts about demons.

"Ok. so the house is now haunted," Ethan texted his mom. "Some weird shit just happened and now i'm scared. i got some videos and a picture of the demon ... it is throwing BOWLS ... I'm not joking. it f----- up the kitchen."

A half an hour passed.

"Can you at least text back," Ethan wrote his mom.

She didn't respond.

Defense cross-examines witnesses

On cross-examination from defense attorney Shannon Smith, Pennock said that her dealings with the Crumbleys were mostly about horses, and that she never considered calling the police about their son. She said she never saw any red flags about his behavior, and noted that she had seen Facebook photos of the Crumbley family camping and socializing together.

Pennock said that she never discussed Ethan with his father.

"So you never said, 'Hey, Jen, wake up. There are signs,' " Smith said.

"No," the witness answered.

Smith grilled Jennifer Crumbley's co-worker Amanda Holland in the same manner.

Holland testified that Jennifer Crumbley confided that she and her husband had marital issues and were contemplating a separation. Holland testified that both spouses had been seeing other people, and that Jennifer Crumbley told her that she saw another man who would pick her up during morning work hours and that the two went to a Costco across from the office.

The Crumbleys, though, got back together. Holland said that Jennifer Crumbley told her that around their anniversary, the couple took a casino trip and after returning home, decided to work things out.

Holland's testimony bolsters the prosecution's allegations that Jennifer and James Crumbley ignored their troubled son and instead focused on their own needs, including having extramarital affairs and taking care of their horses.

Holland also told the court that Jennifer Crumbley had previously expressed concerns that her son would be lonely after his only friend moved away. She also testified that Jennifer Crumbley headed to check on her horses almost every day after work.

Holland also recalled her encounter with Jennifer Crumbley after the mother saw the picture of her son's gun drawing.

"I told her I thought it was scary that he would draw that. She agreed," Holland said.

On cross-examination, Holland noted that Jennifer Crumbley's comments about feeling like a failure "seemed a little sarcastic."

Holland, who often overheard Jennifer Crumbley's phone conversations at work, testified that she never heard Jennifer Crumbley talk about taking her son to a doctor or a therapist. But she did hear her talk about her horses a lot.

On cross-examination from the defense, Holland conceded that she and Jennifer Crumbley were not friends and talked mostly about little things.

"Jen didn't sit down with you and give you a play-by-play about their marriage, correct?" asked Shannon Smith, the defense attorney.

"Correct," Holland answered, but added, "She went into detail about certain issues."

For example, Holland said, Jennifer Crumbley told her she was seeing someone else, and that she saw him during work hours.

Defense attorney Smith noted that Holland's knowledge of Ethan Crumbley was "very limited," and that she was unaware of many things involving the school shooting.

"Were you aware that school officials told Jennifer that (Ethan) is not a threat to anyone?" Smith asked, drawing a loud objection from the prosecution, which maintains the school never said that.

Smith got the witness to acknowledge that much of her opinion is based on hindsight. For example, Holland testified that if Ethan Crumbley were her child, she would have brought him home from school after he was found with that gun drawing.

Smith noted that Holland, though, didn't call police herself and say, "The parents didn’t do anything about this drawing."

"This is hindsight," Smith told the witness. "You know more now. ... You had no idea that a school shooting was going to take place after seeing that drawing on the math paper."

"No I did not," Holland acknowledged.

That's precisely the argument that the defense has been making about the Crumbleys — that they had no way of knowing that their son was going to shoot up his school that day.

James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School in late November, sit in the courtroom of Judge Julie Nicholson of 52/3 District Court in Rochester Hills on Feb. 8, 2022. The couple is facing involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly buying the gun that the police say their son used in the shooting that killed four students and injured six other students and a teacher.

The Crumbleys have denied wrongdoing, maintaining they properly secured the gun in their home, that they had no way of knowing their son would use it to shoot up his school, and that they are not responsible for the deadly shooting.

Separately, two civil lawsuits have been filed against the Oxford school district, alleging school officials made several missteps and put the students' lives in danger.

The district has denied any wrongdoing, saying the actions taken by teachers, counselors and others were "proper" and "lawful." The Oxford school district also argues it cannot be held liable for the shooting because, it maintains, it is protected by governmental immunity.

Contact Tresa Baldas: tbaldas@freepress.com

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oxford school shooting: Witnesses detail the Crumbleys' dark world