James and Jennifer Crumbley, charged with helping their emotionally troubled son Ethan Crumbley buy the gun he used to shoot up a Michigan school, will be tried separately.
The pair was facing a Jan. 23 trial in connection to the Nov. 20, 2021 mass shooting that left four people dead and seven injured at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit. Lawyers for the Crumbleys argued separately that painting the pair with the same brush would “impact the substantial rights of both spouses” and compromise both defendants’ rights to a fair hearing, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Attorneys for each parent argued that separating the defendants is necessary because prosecutors apparently intend to call “one or both of the witnesses” to the stand. Newly introduced evidence reportedly could be prejudicial to both parents, their lawyers claim. They each face involuntary manslaughter charges.
Prosecutors agreed the Crumbleys have a right to be tried individually. So did Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews.
Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to charges including terrorism and first-degree murder in October 2022 after deciding against making an insanity defense. His mental state was heavily debated during legal proceedings that resulted in a life sentence.
An Oxford High School teacher found a disturbing drawing made by Ethan Crumbley that they brought to his parents’ attention the day of the shootings.
“The thoughts won’t stop,” the teenager wrote on the sketch. “Help me.”
James and Jennifer Crumbley declined to take their son out of school. He later opened fire with a handgun pulled from his backpack, which also contained dozens of rounds of ammunition. A day earlier, a teacher reportedly caught the teen shopping for bullets on his phone. His mom allegedly advised him not to “get caught” looking for ammo during class.
It’s rare for the parents of school shooters to face serious criminal charges. James and Jennifer Crumbley pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for the state complained the couple blew kisses and mouthed “I love you” to one another during previous court dates.
But Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast said in a filing last month “James Crumbley should be aware of the fact that (his wife) Jennifer Crumbley has placed blame on him in jail communications,” the Free Press reported.
Jennifer Crumbley’s lawyer accused prosecutors of trying to give a false impression the defendants were not on the same page.
“This could not be more untrue,” the defense attorney claimed.