The parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooter have been bound over for trial after two days’ worth of evidence was presented in court during the couple’s preliminary examination hearing.
James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Ethan Crumbley, are each facing four involuntary manslaughter charges for their alleged role in failing to prevent the shooting. Ethan Crumbley is accused of opening fire during school hours on Nov. 30, 2021, killing four students and injuring seven other people.
The Crumbley parents appeared in court Thursday for the second half of their preliminary exam, where witness accounts revealed new details and gave new perspective about events leading up to and following the fatal mass shooting. District court judge Julie Nicholson ultimately decided that James and Jennifer Crumbley will stand trial for their charges.
In the months following the Oxford High School shooting, a lot of evidence has been presented -- here’s the new information we learned on Feb. 25, 2022.
Oxford High School counselor’s perspective
Prosecutors called Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins to the stand Thursday. Hopkins met with Ethan Crumbley, 15, the day before and the morning of the shooting.
Hopkins, a former youth pastor, said he was present for a meeting with Ethan on Nov. 29 -- the day before the shooting -- after a teacher noticed Ethan Crumbley looking up bullets on his phone in class. The counselor said the teen appeared calm and compliant, and seemed to agree that the behavior was inappropriate for school.
Ethan Crumbley also reportedly said that that he and his mother went to the gun range the previous weekend, and that he was researching ammunition because it was a hobby. Hopkins said the meeting only lasted about five minutes.
The counselor said the only other noteworthy interaction he had with Ethan Crumbley was in early November, when one of the student’s teachers emailed Hopkins saying Ethan Crumbley seemed sad. Hopkins said he told the teen that he was “there to talk,” but the student never followed up.
Counselor Hopkins was then alerted to disturbing drawings and text written on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment during class on the morning of Nov. 30. At around 9 a.m. that day, Hopkins went to Ethan Crumbley’s class and took him out of class for a meeting.
The counselor said that he was concerned about Ethan Crumbley and wanted to make sure the student was OK after becoming alerted several times to strange behavior over a couple of days.
The student reportedly claimed that his behavior -- including the violent drawings of weapons and shootings on his math assignment -- were all connected to a video game he was designing.
The assignment also contained text such as “my life is useless.” Hopkins said he asked the student about these messages, as they didn’t seem relevant to a video game design, and that’s when Ethan Crumbley appeared to become sad.
The counselor said that Crumbley described how his dog had died, he lost a grandparent, COVID had been difficult on him, his friend moved away and he had recently gotten into an argument over grades with his parents. Hopkins said he noticed “enough suicidal ideation based on (Ethan Crumbley’s) sadness and some of the words that he had written” on the assignment that he decided to call Jennifer Crumbley, the student’s mother.
Hopkins got ahold of the mother and sent her a photo of the math assignment, though it had been altered by the student at that point, and said he was concerned about Ethan Crumbley’s behavior. The counselor asked her to come in for a meeting. There was reportedly some back and forth, but both Jennifer and James Crumbley ultimately arrived at the school for a meeting around 10:30 a.m.
While they waited, Hopkins said that Ethan Crumbley stated, “I see how this looks bad,” and “I’m not going to do anything.” He also reportedly stated that he was not a threat to himself or others.
According to Hopkins, James and Jennifer Crumbley were not friendly and “didn’t show care” to their son Ethan during the meeting. The counselor reportedly stated his concern for the student’s wellbeing, and provided a list of mental health resources to the parents.
The parents were asked to get their son mental health support as soon as possible, that day if possible. The witness testified that Jennifer Crumbley said that would not be possible, as both parents had to return to work. Hopkins then told the parents that Ethan Crumbley must be seen by a professional within 48 hours, and told the court that he had plans to follow up with the teen the next morning.
Hopkins said the Crumbley parents appeared to be compliant with the plan. The counselor said his primary concern was that he didn’t want the student to be alone due to the suicidal ideation he had witnessed.
Hopkins, who says he has no involvement in disciplining students, did not appear to forcefully request that Ethan Crumbley be removed from school by his parents.
“You could’ve said he has to leave, correct?” a defense attorney asked Hopkins.
“I could have stated that, correct,” Hopkins said.
Still, the counselor said he was “taken aback” when James and Jennifer Crumbley declined to take their son home from school after learning about his behavior. The parents reportedly did not ask any questions during the meeting.
According to Hopkins, the meeting ended abruptly with Jennifer Crumbley asking, “Are we done?”
The counselor then reportedly asked the dean, who was present for the meeting, if there was any disciplinary reason that Ethan Crumbley couldn’t return to class, and the dean reportedly said no. Hopkins then wrote a pass for the student to return to class, and said he checked to make sure he was marked present for his classes after the meeting.
The student went to and completed his fourth-hour class, Hopkins said. Law enforcement said the shooting began at about 12:51 p.m.
Police say that Ethan Crumbley used a 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun to carry out the school shooting on Nov. 30. The handgun was purchased by the teen’s father, James Crumbley, just days before the shooting.
An office manager from the store where the gun was purchased was called to the stand Thursday. She testified that a trigger lock was provided to James Crumbley with the purchase of his gun, as all gun purchases come with one. She also testified that by signing a certain form, James Crumbley acknowledged that he understood that it is illegal to purchase a gun for someone else.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that the weapon was purchased specifically for Ethan Crumbley, who was present for the sale of the gun, as a Christmas present.
More on that: Were warning signs ignored? A deep dive into evidence against parents of accused Oxford High School shooter
A detective with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) testified Thursday that he had found an empty handgun case and an empty box of ammunition on James and Jennifer Crumbley’s bed when securing their home just after the shooting. A sergeant with the OCSO also testified Thursday that Ethan Crumbley had identified the 9 mm handgun as his gun, not his parents’ in a journal entry.
During the Thursday hearing, prosecutors said that in messages to a friend, Ethan Crumbley said his parents laughed at him and told him to “suck it up” after he asked for help with his mental health.
Ethan Crumbley’s journal had reportedly been found in his backpack by law enforcement after the shooting occurred. OSCO Lt. Timothy Willis testified Thursday that every single page in that journal mentioned the school shooting.
In the journal, Ethan Crumbley reportedly wrote “I will cause the biggest school shooting in Michigan’s history. I WILL KILL EVERYONE I F*****G SEE. I have fully mentally lost it after years of fighting with my dark side. My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist.”
The teen also wrote “help” in big bold letters, saying, “I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the f*****g school.”
On another page, Ethan Crumbley reportedly wrote, “The first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer like me.” Below that text is a drawing of a head with a ponytail, with a round being fired from a handgun into the head, Willis said.
The teen is said to have apologized to his mother and father in a journal entry, saying “I’m not trying to hurt you by doing this. I have to do this.”
Willis also testified that Crumbley referenced the gun as his own, and not his father’s, by writing, “I will have to find where my dad hid my 9 mm before I can shoot the school.”
On what appears to be the last entry, dated Nov. 29, 2021, Ethan Crumbley reportedly wrote, “First off, I got my gun. It’s a SP 2022 Sig Sauer 9 mm. Second, the shooting is tomorrow, I have access to the gun and ammo.”
The defense argued during the hearing that James and Jennifer Crumbley were unaware of the journal entries.
More: Prosecutors say suspected Oxford shooter tortured birds, admired Hitler, ‘enjoyed his dark side’
The Crumbley home
Witnesses from the OCSO also testified about the status of the Crumbley family’s home and what they found when executing a search warrant following the shooting.
Both witnesses described the home as messy, including the two rooms that reportedly belonged to Ethan Crumbley.
In Ethan Crumbley’s bedroom, law enforcement found two gun range targets hung up on the wall. They also said they discovered:
- A container of miscellaneous shell casings on the nightstand;
- An empty bottle of whiskey on the floor;
- Folding knives;
- A coin with a swastika on it; and
- Animal feces, believed to belong to a small rodent.
Related: Poll: Michigan voters support charging parents in Oxford High School shooting
During their search, officials found two unloaded handguns locked inside of a gun case in the parents’ bedroom. There was another gun case, which was empty except for an unopened gun lock, that was located in a kitchen cabinet.
An OCSO detective testified that there were several bottles of liquor and alcohol found throughout the kitchen.
Read more: Judge hears arguments over where suspected Oxford High School shooter should be held