Parents of Oxford shooting suspect plead not guilty to involuntary manslaughter charges

James Crumbley, Jennifer Crumbley accused of contributing to mass high school shooting

James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the alleged shooter at Oxford High School, are in the Oakland County Jail after being arraigned Saturday morning.

The parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooter on Saturday pleaded not guilty to four involuntary manslaughter charges brought against each of them for their alleged role in the mass shooting.

During their arraignment Saturday morning, James Crumbley, 45, and Jennifer Crumbley, 43, both pleaded not guilty to each of the four counts of involuntary manslaughter charges brought against them in connection with the Oxford High School shooting on Nov. 30. The couple’s son, Ethan Crumbley, 15, a sophomore at the school, is accused of firing dozens of rounds from a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol that was recently purchased by his father, fatally striking four students and wounding six students a teacher.

The parents are accused of contributing to the shooting and events that led to the shooting. Ethan Crumbley was arraigned on a list of charges, including several counts of murder and terrorism, on Wednesday.

Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old charged in the Oxford High School shooting. (WDIV)

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald publicly announced the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley on Friday. The couple was originally set to be arraigned Friday afternoon, but did not appear at the court and police could not locate them.

Shortly after police issued a “be on the lookout” alert for the Crumbleys Friday afternoon, the couple’s attorneys -- Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman -- released a statement explaining their clients had left town, but planned to return. The attorneys doubled down on their message during the Saturday arraignment, arguing that they were unaware of the scheduled arraignment time and the accused were “never” fleeing prosecution.

Detroit police located the pair inside a warehouse Friday night, where they were apparently hiding. Police said early Saturday morning that James and Jennifer Crumbley were arrested without incident, and were turned over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

More: Police: Parents of Oxford shooting suspect hid in Detroit warehouse amid manhunt

Despite the defense attorneys’ claims, Judge Julie A. Nicholson set the couple’s bond at $500,00 each, no 10%, on Saturday due to the court’s concerns that James and Jennifer Crumbley may be a flight risk and/or danger to public safety. Prosecutor McDonald requested this bond amount. The defense attorneys asked for bond to be set at $50,000 or $100,000, arguing the couple are not flight risks.

If the couple does post bond, they will be required to wear GPS tethers, turn over all of their firearms to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, in addition to several other stipulations such as not testing positive for alcohol or other substances and informing the court of their whereabouts in advance.

If convicted on all four counts of involuntary manslaughter, James and Jennifer Crumbley each face a maximum of 60 years in prison, in addition to a maximum of $30,000 in fines. McDonald said during a news conference Friday that the charges are the strongest possible charges the prosecutor’s office could prove against the parents for their role in the shooting.

Both James and Jennifer Crumbley are scheduled to appear in court again on Dec. 14.

You can watch the entire arraignment below.

The parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooting have each pleaded not guilty to four involuntary manslaughter charges brought against them for their alleged role in the mass shooting.

Here’s more evidence provided by the prosecutor’s office related to the parents’ alleged involvement in the Nov. 30 shooting.

Parent-weapon connection

Ethan Crumbley, a sophomore student, is accused of firing dozens of rounds from a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP2022 pistol that was recently purchased by his father, fatally striking four students and wounding six students a teacher.

Officials revealed Friday that James Crumbley purchased the weapon at a gun shop in Oxford on Nov. 26 -- four days before the shooting -- with his son Ethan Crumbley present. Ethan Crumbley later took to social media to post a photo of the pistol, writing “Just got my new beauty today,” including an emoji with hearts, prosecutors said.

Following that purchase, mother Jennifer Crumbley reportedly posted on social media, writing, “Mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present.”

McDonald says the evidence indicates that the weapon purchased by James Crumbley was intended as a gift for Ethan Crumbley. In Michigan, you must be at least 18 years old to obtain a handgun license. Officials say the weapon was stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom at their home in Oxford Village.

McDonald said the teen’s access to the weapon goes beyond negligence. During a video message Thursday night, McDonald said, “It’s just not enough to charge this shooter,” implying at that time that charges were likely to be brought against at least one of Ethan Crumbley’s parents.

The reasoning behind the involuntary manslaughter charges goes beyond just the gun ownership, officials said Friday.

Prosecutor: Parents aware of ‘disturbing’ behavior

According to McDonald, a teacher at Oxford High School observed Ethan Crumbley looking up ammunition on his cell phone during class on Nov. 29. The teacher reported the incident to school officials, who reportedly reached out to Jennifer Crumbley by phone and email to alert the parents.

School personnel say they did not receive a response from either parent regarding the internet search. According to McDonald, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text to her son regarding the incident, writing “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”

On the day of the shooting, Nov. 30, officials report that a teacher discovered a note with disturbing drawings and messages on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, prompting her to take a picture on her cell phone and alert school personnel. Prosecutors say the note contained the following items:

  • A drawing of a semi-automatic handgun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
  • A drawing of a bullet with “blood everywhere” written above the bullet.
  • A drawing of a person who appeared to have been shot twice and bleeding.
  • A drawing of a laughing emoji.
  • Writing that said, “My life is useless.”
  • Writing that said, “The world is dead.”

Parents meet with school personnel on day of shooting

James and Jennifer Crumbley were summoned to Oxford High School on the morning of the shooting to address the note found by the teacher. Ethan Crumbley and his parents together met with school personnel, where they were shown the note and were advised to take their son to counseling within 48 hours.

During the meeting, Prosecutor McDonald says that the parents both “failed to ask their son if he had his gun with him, or where his gun was located, and failed to inspect his backpack for the presence of the gun -- which he had with him.”

Investigators previously said that the weapon was likely stored in Ethan Crumbley’s backpack on the day of the shooting, which was present during the Tuesday meeting.

Parents refuse to take Ethan Crumbley home after meeting

McDonald says parents James and Jennifer Crumbley did not want to take their son home with them following the meeting on Nov. 30. Instead, the couple left the school without him, and Ethan Crumbley was sent back to class.

According to prosecutors, Jennifer Crumbley sent a text message to her son after news of the school shooting became public, writing, “Ethan don’t do it.” Shortly after, at 1:37 p.m., James Crumbley called 911 and reported that a gun was missing from his house, and that he believed his son may be the shooter at Oxford High School.

McDonald said Friday that she did not intend to “chastise or attack” school personnel, but that Ethan Crumbley “should not have been allowed to go back to that class.”

Read more: Detroit police arrest parents of Oxford High School shooting suspect after tracking with K-9 units

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.