A Michigan jury convicted a school shooter’s mother of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students in 2021.
Prosecutors say Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent when she failed to tell Oxford High School that the family had guns, including a 9 mm handgun that her son, Ethan Crumbley, used at a shooting range on the weekend before the Nov. 30, 2021, attack.
The jury — six men and six women including some gun owners or people who grew up with guns — began deliberations Monday morning. They sent a note to the judge that afternoon asking if they could “infer anything” from prosecutors not presenting Ethan Crumbley or others to explain specifically how he got access to a gun at home to shoot up Oxford High School.
“The answer is no,” Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews said. “You’re only allowed to consider the evidence that was admitted in the case.”
Prosecutors say Jennifer Crumbley had a duty under Michigan law to prevent her son, who was 15 at the time, from harming others. She’s accused of failing to secure a gun and ammunition at home and failing to get help for her son’s mental health.
The morning of Nov. 30, 2021, school staff members were concerned about a violent drawing of a gun, bullet and wounded man, accompanied by desperate phrases, on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment. He was allowed to stay in school following a meeting with his parents, who didn’t take him home.
A few hours later, Ethan Crumbley pulled a handgun from his backpack and shot 10 students and a teacher, killing four peers. No one had checked the backpack.
The gun was the Sig Sauer 9 mm his father, James Crumbley, purchased with him just four days earlier. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range that same weekend.
“You’re the last adult to have possession of that gun,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said while cross-examining Jennifer Crumbley last week. “You saw your son shoot the last practice round before the (school) shooting on Nov. 30. You saw how he stood. … He knew how to use the gun.”
The teen’s mom replied, “Yes, he did.”
Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism and is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors were not required to call him as a witness to try to prove their case against Jennifer Crumbley.
Her lawyer argued last week that the teen actually might be able to help her defense. It didn’t matter: The judge kept him off the witness stand because attorneys for Ethan Crumbley said he would cite his right to remain silent. He still might appeal his sentence.
Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. James Crumbley, 47, faces trial in March.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, told jurors that it was her husband’s job to keep track of the gun. She also said she saw no signs of mental distress in her son.
“We would talk. We did a lot of things together,” she testified. “I trusted him, and I felt I had an open door. He could come to me about anything.”
In a journal found by police, Ethan Crumbley wrote that his parents wouldn’t listen to his pleas for help.
“I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” he wrote.