Were warning signs ignored? A deep dive into evidence against parents of accused Oxford High School shooter

Prosecutor says parents should be kept behind bars

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald argued, in a court filing, reasons why bond should not be lowered for the parents of the accused Oxford High School Shooter.

OXFORD, Mich.Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald argued in a court filing Thursday that bond should not be lowered for the parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooter.

James Robert Crumbley and Jennifer Lynn Crumbley are each facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter after police say their son, Ethan Crumbley, killed four students and injured seven other people on Nov. 30 at Oxford High School in Michigan.

Read: ‘They will flee if they get the opportunity’: Prosecutor argues bond should not be lowered for parents of accused Oxford school shooter

James Crumbley (left), Ethan Crumbley (center) and Jennifer Crumbley (right) are all being lodged at the Oakland County Jail over charges in connection with the Nov. 30 shooting at Oxford High School. Mug shots provided by law enforcement. (WDIV)

Were warning signs ignored? Could the parents have prevented the shooting?

In the filing, McDonald said James and Jennifer Crumbley willfully ignored the needs and well-being of their son and the threat he posed to others.

“Their son was torturing animals, even leaving a baby bird’s head in a jar on his bedroom floor, which he later took and placed in a school bathroom,” the filing reads.

McDonald alleges that the parents were ignoring their son and instead focusing on their own personal issues that included “things like extra-marital affairs, financial issues and substance abuse issues.”

McDonald said in the filling that the parents were aware that Ethan Crumbley’s “only friend moved at the end of October, 2021; that the family dog died; that their son was sadder than usual; and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind.”

The parents are accused of ignoring their son and spending up to 3-4 nights a week, for up to 3 hours at a time, at a barn caring for their horses and seeking other relationships outside the marriage.

“Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun,” the filing reads. “This is not a case of hindsight, where parents later wish they could have done something. These parents could have done something.”

McDonald said the evidence shows that Ethan Crumbley gave numerous warning signs via “disturbing” statements through text messages, journals and conversations and in his actions.

McDonald said the parents were called into the school on the day of the shooting after a teacher found drawings on Ethan Crumbley’s desk that concerned school officials.

James and Jennifer Crumbley left Oxford High School at 10:55 a.m., more than an hour before the shooting. McDonald said they had been shown the drawings and decided to leave their son at school.

“Despite having all this knowledge, Defendants failed to take even the simplest action that would have prevented the massacre. All they had to do was tell the school that they recently purchased a gun for their son, ask him where the gun was, open his backpack, or just take him home,” the filing reads. “Defendants were in a better position than anyone else in this world to prevent this tragedy, but they failed to do so.”

View: The drawings a teacher found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk just hours before Oxford High School shooting

New evidence released in Oxford High School shooting

Does the couple pose a flight risk now if out on bond? Did they try to avoid arrest?

McDonald said they “are at a greater risk of flight now than they were at the time of the arraignment.”

Some of the reasons McDonald gave include the fact that the James and Jennifer Crumbley were more than $11,000 behind on their house payments as of Oct. 18, 2021. Their home is currently listed for sale and they have sold their horses.

“They will flee if they get the opportunity. Those are critically important facts known to defendants but not disclosed to the Court in the defendants’ motion,” the filing reads.

McDonald said James and Jennifer Crumbley were found with four cell phones. Two cell phones were used to replace the ones that were taken into evidence on the day of the shooting.

The Fugitive Apprehension Team was aware of two phones and had numbers and had attempted to contact them.

The other two phones were obtained by defendants later, “presumably for the express purpose of attempting to evade arrest.”

McDonald said that presumption is supported by the fact that one of the phones had been smashed before the couple was arrested.

What about the gun?

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said when they arrested Ethan Crumbley they found him with a loaded 9 mm Sig Sauer SP2022 semi-automatic pistol. Officials say seven rounds were discovered inside the handgun when deputies converged on the shooter.

“This was not a case where their son retrieved and used their gun. Instead, he retrieved and used his gun, the one they bought for him,” the filing reads.

Police say that gun had been purchased by James Crumbley as a gift for Ethan Crumbley on Nov. 30, Black Friday. Bouchard said three 15-round magazines were reportedly purchased with the gun.

“They knew that their son was depressed, that he was fascinated with guns, that they had purchased a Sig Sauer 9mm handgun for him just days before, that he had been researching ammunition while at school, and that he was seen watching violent video of shootings that morning,” the filing reads.

McDonald said the parents kept the gun in an unlocked armoire cupboard. The filing also said on the day of the shooting Jennifer Crumbley gave inconsistent statements to various individuals regarding the location and accessibility of the gun. She told her boyfriend that she had the gun in her own car, McDonald said.

“It would only have taken them minutes to ascertain the exact location of their son’s gun -- their home was only 1.4 miles from the school, and less than a five-minute drive,” the filing reads.

Minutes after the shooting became public, James Crumbley called 911 to report that the gun was missing and said he believed his son might be the shooter.

View the entire court filing below

If you become aware of crimes at, or threats toward someone at a Michigan school, you can submit an anonymous tip to the OK2SAY tipline online. You can also make a tip by calling 855-565-2729, texting 652729, or emailing OK2SAY@mi.gov. If it’s an emergency, call 911.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts you are not alone. Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 to provide support at 800-273-8255.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.