‘Our clients are just as devastated as everyone else…’
(Associated Press) Hours after police said they were captured hiding in a Detroit commercial building, a judge set a combined bond of $1 million for the parents of the Michigan teen charged with killing four students at Oxford High School.
During a Zoom hearing, James and Jennifer Crumbley entered not guilty pleas to each of the four involuntary manslaughter counts against them. When a prosecution indicated their son had full access to the gun used in the crimes, Jennifer Crumbley sobbed and struggled to react to the judge’s questioning, and James Crumbley shook his head.
Judge Julie Nicholson set each of the assigned bonds at $500,000 and required GPS monitoring if they pay to be released, agreeing with prosecutors that they posed a flight risk.
The Crumbleys’ defense attorneys continued to contend on Saturday that they had no intention of fleeing and had made plans to meet their lawyers early that morning. Attorney Shannon Smith accused prosecutors of “cherry-picking” evidence to make public, including the claim that their teenage son had unrestricted access to the handgun his father bought for him days before the incident, according to prosecutors.
“Our clients are just as devastated as everyone else,” Smith said, adding that the gun “was locked.” She didn’t provide more detail during Saturday’s hearing.
On Friday, the Crumbleys were charged with involuntary manslaughter by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald’s office, accusing them of failing to interfere on the day of the tragedy despite being confronted with a drawing and terrifying message — “blood everywhere” — found at the boy’s desk. According to a McDonald’s representative, they could each face up to 15 years in prison.
The Crumbleys engaged in “egregious” behavior, according to McDonald, from buying a gun on Black Friday and making it available to Ethan Crumbley to refusing to remove him from school when they were summoned a few hours before the shooting.
The duo had been on the run since Friday afternoon, according to authorities. The US Marshals announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to their arrests late Friday.
The Crumbleys’ attorney, the Smith, claimed Friday that the couple had fled town earlier in the week “for their own safety,” and that they would be returning to Oxford to face charges.
Smith said they spoke by phone and text on Friday evening and faulted prosecutors for neglecting to communicate with her and colleague defense attorney Mariell Lehman during Saturday’s hearing.
“Our clients were absolutely going to turn themselves in; it was just a matter of logistics,” she said.
However, McDonald said on Saturday that the couple took $4,000 from an ATM in Rochester Hills on Friday morning, not far from the courthouse where they were supposed to appear that afternoon.
“These are not people that we can be assured will return to court on their own,” she said.
Late Friday, a Detroit business owner observed a car linked to the Crumbleys in his parking lot, according to Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe. When the company owner called 911, a lady observed near the vehicle bolted, according to McCabe. The duo was ultimately tracked down and apprehended by Detroit cops.
The couple “were aided in getting into the building,” according to Detroit Police Chief James E. White, who added that the person who assisted them could face charges as well.
McDonald gave the most detailed account of the events leading up to the shooting at Oxford High School, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit, on Friday.
Investigators said Ethan Crumbley, 15, came from a bathroom with a gun and shot students in the corridor. As an adult, he faces charges of murder, terrorism, and other crimes.
According to Michigan law, authorities can pursue the involuntary manslaughter charge filed against the parents if they believe someone contributed to a situation where there was a high risk of harm or death.
According to experts, parents in the United States are rarely charged with school shootings involving their children, despite the fact that most minors obtain guns from a parent or relative’s house.
On Monday, a day before the shooting, school officials were concerned about the younger Crumbley when a teacher noticed him looking for ammunition on his phone, according to McDonald.
Jennifer Crumbley was contacted, and she sent her son a text message that said, “Lol. I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” according to the prosecutor.
A teacher found a note on Ethan’s desk on Tuesday and photographed it. It was a drawing of a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” McDonald said.
She also pointed out a drawing of a bullet with the words “Blood everywhere” above it.
A person appeared to have been shot twice and was bleeding between the gun and the bullet. According to the prosecutor, he allegedly wrote “My life is useless” and “The world is dead.”
According to McDonald, the school swiftly held meetings with Ethan and his parents, who were instructed to get him into treatment within 48 hours.
The Crumbleys failed to ask their son about the gun or check his backpack and “resisted the idea of their son leaving the school at that time,” McDonald said.
Instead, the teen returned to class and the shooting subsequently occurred.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne outlined the school’s response to Crumbley’s behavior for the first time in a written statement released Saturday. Crumbley indicated shooting sports were a family passion during his initial encounter with a counselor and a staff member, according to Throne.
Crumbley claimed the designs were part of a video game concept during the second meeting with guidance counselors and said he wanted to pursue a career in that sector, according to the letter. Crumbley remained calm and focused on his homework while staff attempted to contact his parents and drove them to school, according to guidance counselors.
During that meeting, the parents did not inform the counselors that they had recently purchased a gun for their son, according to Thorne.
“Given the fact that the child had no prior disciplinary infractions, the decision was made he would be returned to the classroom rather than sent home to an empty house,” he said.
When Crumbleys’ parents were brought in for a meeting about his behavior, the prosecutor, McDonald, previously alleged that they should have alerted counselors that their son had access to a gun.
Jennifer Crumbley texted her son after the shooting, saying, “Ethan, don’t do it,” she said on Friday.
Ethan Crumbley may have been the shooter, according to James Crumbley, who called 911 to report a gun taken from their home. According to McDonald, the gun was kept in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom.
On Nov. 26, Ethan accompanied his father to the gun store and shared images of the weapon on social media, writing, “Just got my new beauty today,” according to McDonald.
Jennifer Crumbley stated on social media over the long Thanksgiving weekend that it is a “mom and son day testing out his new Christmas present,” the prosecutor said.
When asked if the father could face charges for purchasing the gun for his son at a news conference, McDonald said it would be up to federal officials to decide.
As per nbcnews, McDonald was questioned about keeping Crumbley in school.
“Of course, he shouldn’t have gone back to that classroom. … I believe that is a universal position. I’m not going to chastise or attack, but yeah,” she said.
Asked if school officials may potentially be charged, McDonald said: “The investigation’s ongoing.”