Ethan Crumbley’s parents must be held ‘accountable and can’t be trusted not to flee, says prosecutor

·4 min read

The parents of Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley must be held “accountable” for the massacre that left four students dead and can’t be trusted not to go on the run again, according to prosecutors.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald told the court during James and Jennifer Crumbley’s arraignment on Saturday morning that the couple knew their son was “dangerous” and “could have stopped” him from carrying out Tuesday’s mass shooting at Oxford High School.

“This is a very serious, horrible, terrible murder and shooting, and it has affected the entire community, and these two individuals could have stopped it," she said.

"They had every reason to know that he was dangerous, and they gave him a weapon and they didn’t secure it and they allowed him free access to it."

The Crumbleys were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter on Friday. They pleaded not guilty to the charges in Saturday’s arraignment and were ordered to be held on $500,000 bond each.

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Ms McDonald warned that the Crumbleys would remain a flight risk if released, after they failed to show for their arraignment on Friday and led authorities on a wide-scale manhunt before being tracked down to a warehouse close to the Canadian border.

“These are not people that we can be assured are going to return to court on their own,” she said.

The couple had allegedly withdrawn $4,000 in cash from an ATM Friday and switched off their mobile phones to evade prosecution before authorities said they found them “hiding” in the commercial building in Detroit.

The attorneys for the Crumbleys claimed they “were never fleeing prosecution” but it was “just a matter of logistics” as to when they would surrender.

Ms McDonald took the somewhat unusual step of bringing charges against the parents of the 15-year-old suspect who is accused of carrying out the deadliest school shooting in America since 2018.

The prosecutor said the Crumbleys bear a responsibility for the murders of the four victims - Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17 – and must be held to account.

Central to the prosecution’s argument is that the Crumbleys allegedly bought their son the firearm used in Tuesday’s massacre and ignored multiple red flags that he was about to commit violence at his high school.

"While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30 and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well," said Ms McDonald at a press conference on Friday.

The charges against the parents and their short-lived stint as fugitives on the run has added an unusual twist to the tragedy which has rocked the tight-knit community of Oxford, Oakland County.

It is extremely rare for parents of school shooters to be charged along with their children.

The involuntary manslaughter charge is the strongest allowed under the law, which states that the parents of a child who violates firearm-related statutes on school property or in a school vehicle can be held criminally liable if the parent knew the child’s intentions or furthered their actions.

In Michigan, there are no laws requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms out of reach of their children.

On Friday, Ms McDonald outlined new details about the timeline leading up to the mass shooting.

She said that Mr Crumbley bought the gun - a Sig Sauer 9mm model SP 2022 - allegedly used in the shooting four days earlier on Black Friday, according to authorities.

James and Jennifer Crumbley pictured in booking photo after their arrest on Saturday (EPA)
James and Jennifer Crumbley pictured in booking photo after their arrest on Saturday (EPA)

Ethan, who was reportedly with his father at the time of the purchase, then boasted about “my new beauty” on his now-removed Instagram account. His mother also allegedly posted about having a “Mom and son day testing out his new Xmas present” at a gun range.

Prosecutors said the Crumbleys were then alerted to concerning behaviour by their son at his high school twice but failed to remove him from the school or remove the gun.

On Monday, the day before the shooting, a teacher found the teenager searching for ammunition on his phone, prosecutors said.

When school officials tried to contact Ms Crumbley about the incident, she allegedly ignored their calls but texted her son: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

Ethan Crumbley pictured during his arraignment on Thursday (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Ethan Crumbley pictured during his arraignment on Thursday (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The parents were then called into the school on Tuesday morning after another teacher found a drawing on the teenager’s desk of a handgun, a bullet and a person being shot.

“The thoughts won’t stop, help me” and “blood everywhere” were scrawled on the note.

The Crumbleys are said to have pushed for their son to remain in school, where - just hours later - he allegedly took his gun from his backpack and opened fire on students and staff.

As news of the shooting was made public, Ms Crumbley allegedly texted her son “Ethan, don’t do it” while Mr Crumbley called 911 to report a gun was missing, officials said.

Ethan is being held without bond on 24 charges, including one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder.

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