James and Jennifer Crumbley didn't just ignore their "troubled" son, but exposed him to years of domestic disputes that involved loud fights, heavy drinking, infidelity and rants about money problems, and often put him in the middle of their spats, prosecutors argue in a new court filing.
And rather than hide their affairs from their young son, prosecutors say, they would inject him into their drama by asking him to check on the other parent, with the mother once bringing him along to spend the night at her lover's house when he was 6.
Moreover, prosecutors argue, the Crumbleys were irresponsible with money, spending $4,000 in one year at a liquor store, but not a dime on the mental health care of a child who was seeing demons and pleading for help.
Prosecutor will argue pathway to violence theory
All of this, and more, they say, helped put their son onto a pathway of violence that ended with him carrying out a deadly mass school shooting that left four classmates dead and seven others injured.
And the jury needs to hear all of it, they say.
In a Thursday court filing, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald disclosed a trial strategy that discusses a theory known as the pathway to violence. In this case, prosecutors want to present evidence that they believe shows the Crumbleys exposed their son to "years of chaotic, toxic conflict," which, they say, is a well-known risk to the pathway to violence.
"Put simply, they created an environment in which their son's violent tendencies flourished. They were aware their son was troubled, and then they bought him a gun," the filing states.
Crumbleys say they couldn't foresee shooting
James and Jennifer Crumbley are charged with involuntary manslaughter for their alleged roles in the Nov. 30 mass shooting at Oxford High School in which four students were killed and seven injured. Prosecutors allege the couple ignored their "troubled" son, and instead of getting him medical help, bought him the gun he used in the school shooting.
Prosecutors seek to counter an argument made by the Crumbleys: that they had no idea their son would carry out a mass shooting, and that they are not responsible for the students' deaths. The Crumbleys also have argued that the gun at issue was locked in a secure location.
But the prosecution counters that the Crumbleys were grossly negligent. The school shooting was preventable, they argue, but the Crumbleys failed to help and control their troubled son.
"All they had to do was pay the least bit of attention to their son," the prosecution argues in the court filing.
And they could have spared him the ugliness of their marital spats, they argued, alleging Ethan was exposed to his parents' infidelity at a young age, and lived with the fear of being separated from one or the other.
For example, prosecutors allege, when Ethan was 6 and his family was living in Washington state, his mom took him to her boyfriend's house to spend the night. That evening, with her son on a couch, prosecutors say, the mom gave her boyfriend an ultimatum: Let me move in with you, or I'm moving to Michigan with my husband.
This incident would trigger a marital fight years later in Michigan, prosecutors allege. According to court records, the Crumbleys argued about the Washington affair in a feud that was captured on video within a year of the school shooting and 10 feet from their son's bedroom.
Prosecutors want to show this video to the jury.
"The incident is relevant not only because of (Ethan's) exposure to infidelity and conflict at a young age but also to show that (he) learned from his parents' words and actions that he could be separated from one of them at any time."
Prosecutors also want to show jurors excerpts from Ethan's journal in which he talks about his troubled family life.
'I am a burden to my parents'
"This morning I woke up to my mom having one of her worst rants about how we have no money and can't pay the bills," Ethan Crumbley wrote in his 22-page journal that was found in his backpack on the day of the shooting. "This just furthers my desire to shoot up the school or do something else."
Ethan continued: "I have no happiness, or optimism left in me as I am a burden to my parents."
Prosecutors also disclosed another excerpt from Ethan's journal in which he discussed the following:
"My grades are falling, my parents hate each other, we have no money," Ethan wrote. "I have zero help for my mental problem and it's causing me to shoot up the f------ school."
Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, was charged with first-degree murder. He is being held at the Oakland County Jail pending a January trial. He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have discussed the possibility of an insanity defense.
The Crumbleys are also being held in the Oakland County Jail. Their trial is scheduled for October and they plan to call their son as a witness.
Contact Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Prosecutor discloses new details about James, Jennifer Crumbley