Chilling Videos, Journal Found as Parents Face Scrutiny in Michigan School Shooting

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Michigan teen gets life in prison for Oxford High School attack
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White And Corey Williams
Published Dec 08, 2023 • 5 minute read

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A judge sentenced a Michigan teenager to life in prison Friday for killing four students and terrorizing others at Oxford High School, after listening to hours of gripping anguish from parents and wounded survivors.


Judge Kwame Rowe rejected pleas from defense lawyers for a shorter sentence and ensured that Ethan Crumbley, 17, will not get an opportunity for parole.

Moments before learning his fate, the teen apologized and appeared to agree with his victims that the stiffest punishment was appropriate.

“Any sentence that they ask for, I ask that you do impose it on me,” the shooter said. “I want them to be happy, and I want them to feel secure and safe. I do not want them to worry another day. I really am sorry for what I’ve done. … But I can try my best in the future to help other people, and that is what I will do.”

Life sentences for teenagers are rare in Michigan since the U.S. Supreme Court and the state’s highest court said the acts of minors must be viewed differently than the crimes of adults. But Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said a no-parole order fit the Oxford case.


“It’s not a moment to celebrate,” McDonald said outside court. “It’s tragic. And the voices today, I think, profoundly show that.”

Indeed, Rowe’s decision followed deeply emotional remarks by families of the deceased and survivors who said the tragedy had irreparably turned their lives upside down.

Crumbley, who was 15 when he committed the shooting, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and terrorism. He brought a gun to school, but his backpack was never checked, even after his parents were summoned that same day about their son’s drawings, which included a gun and words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

“I am a really bad person. I’ve done terrible things,” Crumbley said in court Friday.

The judge said the shooting was planned well in advance, and he noted that the shooter had plenty of time to stop as he walked through school.


Rowe was especially troubled by how victim Hana St. Juliana was repeatedly shot and that another, Justin Shilling, was shot at point-blank range in a bathroom while another student was forced to watch. He described it as “execution” and “torture.”

“The court cannot ignore the deep trauma caused to the state of Michigan and the Oxford community,” the judge said.

Earlier, Rowe allowed a framed photo of Tate Myre to be placed near him while the slain teen’s father spoke.

“We are miserable. We miss Tate,” Buck Myre said. “Our family has a permanent hole in it that can never be fixed — ever.”

Nicole Beausoleil recalled seeing the body of her daughter, Madisyn Baldwin, at the medical examiner’s office, her hand with blue-painted fingernails sticking out from a covering.


“I looked though the glass. My scream should have shattered it,” Beausoleil said.

Shilling’s mother, Jill Soave, told the shooter that he executed a boy who could have helped him navigate awkward teenage years.

“If you were that lonely, that miserable and lost, and you really needed a friend, Justin would have been your friend — if only you had asked,” Soave said.

Kylie Ossege explained how she had urged St. Juliana a “thousand times” to keep breathing while they waited for help on a blood-soaked carpet. Her classmate died.

Ossege, now a college student, was shot and continues to struggle with daily pain from spinal injuries.

“Being able to swing a leg over my horse is my therapy. It is pure joy,” she said of Blaze. “I have not been able to do it for two years.”


Crumbley’s defense team urged the judge to give him a chance to turn his life around and become eligible for parole. A court-appointed guardian, lawyer Deborah McKelvy, said the teen was not the same person, two years after the murders.

“He is a bright young man,” she told the judge. “He is an artist. He is a historian. There are days I have been oblivious sitting in a cell for three hours just talking to him. His life is salvageable.”

Defense lawyer Paulette Michel Loftin said Crumbley has improved with medication and mental health care.

“He is remorseful. He has been able to keep out the dark voices and thoughts,” Loftin said.

But victims weren’t impressed.

“There can be no rehabilitation,” St. Juliana’s father, Steve St. Juliana, told the judge. “There is absolutely nothing the defendant can do to earn my forgiveness. His age plays no part.”


In a journal, the shooter wrote about his desire to watch students suffer and the likelihood that he would spend his life in prison. He made a video on the eve of the shooting, declaring what he would do the next day.

Linda Watson said her son, Aiden, who was shot in the leg, still doesn’t go to school for a full day. She recalled the family staying in a hotel because a nail gun being used in her neighborhood sounded like a real gun to him.

“Aiden will be dealing with this for the rest of his life. … This shooter — this monster — should have to feel everything hard and painful for the rest of his life,” Watson said.


Meanwhile, parents Jennifer and James Crumbley are locked up in the county jail. They are awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges, accused of making a gun accessible at home and neglecting their son’s mental health.

The shooting happened in Oxford Township, about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Detroit. Besides the four students who were killed, six more students and a teacher also were wounded.

The Oxford school district hired an outside group to conduct an independent investigation. A report released in October said “missteps at each level” — school board, administrators, staff _ contributed to the tragedy.

Crumbley’s behavior in class, including looking at a shooting video and gun ammunition on his phone, should have identified him as a “potential threat of violence,” the report said.
 

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Mother of Michigan school shooter denies any responsibility for gun used to kill four students
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White
Published Feb 01, 2024 • Last updated 3 days ago • 3 minute read

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The mother of a Michigan school shooter testified in her own defense Thursday saying she had no role in buying or storing the handgun used to kill four students in 2021 and shifted responsibility to her husband.


“I just didn’t feel comfortable being in charge of that. It was his thing,” Jennifer Crumbley said of her husband, turning to jurors as she spoke on the sixth day of her trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.


Crumbley took the stand after days of unflattering evidence about her meetings with staff at Oxford High School, an extramarital affair, a deep concern about her horses after the shooting and the emptying of her son’s $3,000 bank account before her arrest.

Jennifer Crumbley, 45, and husband James, 47, are accused of making a gun accessible at home and ignoring Ethan Crumbley’s mental health needs. They are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child.

James Crumbley faces trial in March. Ethan, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder and is serving a life prison sentence.


The teen, who was 15 at the time, pulled a gun from his backpack and shot 11 people at Oxford High on Nov. 30, 2021, killing four students.

Ethan was with his father when the 9mm handgun was purchased just four days earlier. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range and posted photos about the trip on social media.

But she otherwise denied any role in handling or storing the gun. She said the gun was kept in a locked box with a key kept in a beer stein.

Jennifer Crumbley told the jury she was nervous, but she spoke clearly and calmly for nearly two hours before a break in the proceedings. She apologized for her neck turning red and hoped she wouldn’t break out in hives.

Prosecutors last week presented Ethan Crumbley’s own text messages from spring 2021 in which he told his mom that “demons” were “throwing bowls” and clothes were “flying off the shelf” at home. It was presented as evidence of hallucinations that were not addressed by the parents.


But Jennifer Crumbley said it was “just Ethan messing around.

“He’s been convinced our house has been haunted since 2015,” she said, adding that her son called the ghost “Boris Johnson.”

Earlier in the day, an investigator read portions of Ethan’s journal to the jury.

“I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” Ethan, then 15, wrote.

“My parents won’t listen to me about help or therapist,” the boy said, adding that he would spend his life in prison and that “many people have about a day left to live.”

But Jennifer Crumbley said she saw no mental health problems in her son.

“There were a couple of times when Ethan expressed anxiety over taking tests,” she said. “Anxiety about what he was going to do after high school — college? military? But not at the level where I felt he needed to see a psychiatrist or a mental health professional.”


Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney, Shannon Smith, again renewed her call for Ethan Crumbley to be brought to court to be challenged about his journal and other evidence. But Judge Cheryl Matthews said no, noting that the teen’s lawyers have indicated that he would invoke his right to remain silent.

Although Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to murder and other crimes, his no-parole sentence still can be appealed.

A meeting between school staff and the Crumbleys a few hours before the shooting has been a key point in the mother’s case.

The parents were presented with a disturbing drawing their son had scrawled on an assignment. It depicted a gun and bullet and the lines, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”

The school recommended that Ethan get help as soon as possible, but the Crumbleys declined to take him home, saying they needed to return to work. Their son stayed in school and later pulled a handgun from his backpack to fire at students.
 

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James Crumbley is 2nd parent to stand trial in Michigan school shooting
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White
Published Mar 05, 2024 • 3 minute read

PONTIAC, Mich. — A man who purchased a gun with his son four days before a Michigan school shooting is headed to trial, accused of failing to take steps that could have prevented the teen from killing four students and wounding others.


No one says James Crumbley knew what Ethan Crumbley planned to do at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. But prosecutors allege that his “gross negligence” was a cause of the violence.


It is the second act for prosecutors: the shooter’s mother Jennifer Crumbley was convicted of the same involuntary manslaughter charges a month ago. They are the first U.S. parents to be charged with having criminal responsibility in a mass school shooting committed by a child.

Jury selection in James Crumbley’s case began Tuesday with more than 300 people summoned to Oakland County court, north of Detroit, to fill out a one-page questionnaire and await a possible call-up to the courtroom.

“I don’t think it’s overreach,” Rick Convertino, a Detroit-area defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said of the trials.


“I think the prosecution did an excellent job in putting the links of the chain together” during Jennifer Crumbley’s case, Convertino said. “What led to the horrific shootings could easily have been prevented by simple and ordinary care.”

James Crumbley, accompanied by 15-year-old Ethan, purchased a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun over Thanksgiving weekend in 2021. The boy called it his “new beauty” on social media. His mother, also on social media, described the gun as a Christmas gift and took Ethan to a shooting range.

A few days later, the parents went to Oxford High to discuss a violent drawing on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment, which was accompanied by tormented phrases: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.” There was a gun on the paper that looked similar to the Sig Sauer.


The parents “chose silence” instead of disclosing the gun purchase and a visit to the shooting range, assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said in a court filing.

The Crumbleys didn’t take Ethan home, and the school didn’t demand it. But the parents departed with a list of area mental health services. School counselor Shawn Hopkins said Jennifer Crumbley cited her work as the reason to keep her son in class.

“I don’t remember James speaking on that topic,” he testified.

No one — the parents or school staff — checked the boy’s backpack for a gun, and the shooting happened that afternoon.

James Crumbley called 911, frantically saying, “I think my son took the gun.”

Convertino predicts the call will be “extraordinary, powerful evidence” for prosecutors, who will argue that the father failed to safely store the gun and ammunition.


Defense lawyers, however, said the parents could not have foreseen a mass shooting.

The case “begs the question of when a parent will cross the subjective line of ‘good parenting’ and render himself or herself criminally liable for the independent acts of a teenager,” Mariell Lehman and Shannon Smith said in a court filing.

Ethan, now 17, is serving a life prison sentence for murder and terrorism. He told a judge when he pleaded guilty that his money was used to buy the gun and that the weapon was not locked at home.

Jennifer Crumbley returns to court for her sentence on April 9. Her minimum prison term could be as high as 10 years.

Both parents have been in jail for more than two years. They were unable to post a bond of $500,000 each, following their arrest at a friend’s art studio in Detroit. They insisted they were not trying to flee.
 

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James Crumbley, who bought gun used by son to kill 4 students, guilty of manslaughter
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White
Published Mar 14, 2024 • Last updated 5 days ago • 3 minute read

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — The father of a Michigan school shooter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter Thursday, a second conviction against the teen’s parents who were accused of failing to secure a gun at home and doing nothing to address acute signs of his mental turmoil.


The jury verdict means James Crumbley has joined Jennifer Crumbley as a cause of the killing of four students at Oxford High School in 2021, even without pulling the trigger.


They had separate trials as the first U.S. parents to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. Jennifer Crumbley was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in February.

The verdicts — one each for the four victims — were read around 7:15 p.m. at the end of a full day of deliberations.

James Crumbley heard the outcome through headphones worn throughout the trial because of a hearing problem. He shook his head from side to side as the jury foreman said “guilty.”

“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” Judge Cheryl Matthews told the jury of six men and six women. “I know how hard this has been on all of you.”


Prosecutors focused on two key themes at the trial: the parents’ response to a morbid drawing on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment a few hours before the shooting, and the teen’s access to a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun purchased by James Crumbley only four days earlier.

Ethan made a ghastly drawing of a gun and a wounded man on a math assignment and added disturbing phrases, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. My life is useless.”

But James and Jennifer Crumbley declined to take Ethan home following a brief meeting at the school, and staff didn’t demand it. A counselor, concerned about suicidal ideations, told them to seek help for the boy within 48 hours.

Ethan had told Shawn Hopkins that he was sad over the death of his dog and grandmother and the loss of a friend who had abruptly moved away. He said the drawing was simply his jottings for a video game and that he wasn’t planning to commit violence.


Neither he, nor his parents, told school officials about the gun they had just bought, according to trial testimony.

Hopkins had hoped Ethan would spend the day with his parents. But when that was ruled out, the counselor felt the teen would probably be safer around others at school.

Ethan later pulled the Sig Sauer from his backpack and began shooting that same day, killing Justin Shilling, 17; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Tate Myre, 16. No one had checked the bag, though a school administrator had joked about its heaviness.

“James Crumbley is not on trial for what his son did,” prosecutor Karen McDonald told the jury. “James Crumbley is on trial for what he did and for what he didn’t do.”

He “doesn’t get a pass because somebody else” actually pulled the trigger, she said.


Hopkins told the jury that James Crumbley showed empathy toward his son during the meeting about the drawing, but took no additional action.

When James Crumbley heard about the shooting, he rushed home from his DoorDash job and looked for the gun.

“I think my son took the gun,” he said in a frantic 911 call.

Investigators found an empty gun case and empty ammunition box on the parents’ bed. A cable that could have locked the gun was still in a package, unopened.

Ethan told a judge when he pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism that the gun was not locked when he stuffed it in his backpack before school.

Defense attorney Mariell Lehman tried to emphasize that James Crumbley did not consent to any gun access by his son.

“He did not know he had to protect others from his son,” she told jurors. “He did not know that it was reasonably foreseeable that his son would commit these offenses. He had no idea what his son was planning to do.”

There was no testimony from experts about Ethan’s mental health, and no records were introduced. The boy’s lawyers said before trial that he would invoke his right to remain silent if called to testify.

But the judge allowed the jury to see excerpts from the teen’s handwritten journal.

“I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” Ethan wrote. “I want help but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help.”
 

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Prosecutors recommend at least 10 years in prison for parents of Michigan school shooter
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White
Published Apr 03, 2024 • 2 minute read

PONTIAC, Mich. — Prosecutors in Michigan are recommending at least 10 years in prison next week for two parents who are the first in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a school shooting.


Jennifer Crumbley showed a “chilling lack of remorse” for her role, and James Crumbley “failed to exercise even the smallest measure of ordinary care” that could have prevented the deaths of four students at Oxford High School in 2021, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday.


The Crumbleys, the parents of shooter Ethan Crumbley, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter at separate trials earlier this year. They were not accused of knowing their son’s plan. But prosecutors said they failed to lock up a gun at home and ignored his mental health.

The maximum prison stay for the crime is 15 years. But the minimum sentence set by the judge on April 9 will be critical because the Crumbleys would be eligible for parole consideration after that time. They will get credit for about 2 1/2 years spent in the Oakland County jail since their arrest.


Messages seeking comment from defense lawyers were not immediately returned Wednesday.

In their filing, prosecutors disclosed that Jennifer Crumbley, 46, is hoping to avoid prison and instead be fitted with an electronic tether and live with her attorney, Shannon Smith. They said James Crumbley, 47, too, is hoping to be released.

“Such a proposed sentence is a slap in the face to the severity of tragedy caused by defendant’s gross negligence, the victims and their families,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said, referring to Jennifer Crumbley.

On the day of the shooting, the Crumbleys went to the school to discuss Ethan’s morbid drawing of a gun, a bullet, a wounded figure and phrases such as, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”


Instead of taking their son home, the Crumbleys left with a list of contacts for mental health services and returned to work. A few hours later, Ethan, who was 15 at the time, pulled a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from his backpack and began shooting.

School staff had not demanded that Ethan be removed from school. But they also didn’t know that James Crumbley had purchased the gun just four days earlier and that it resembled the one in the drawing, according to trial testimony.

Ethan, now 17, is serving life in prison with no chance for parole after pleading guilty to murder and terrorism.

During James Crumbley’s trial, the judge barred his use of a phone and tablet while in jail. The sheriff’s department, which operates the jail, said he had been making threats, though no details were publicly disclosed at the time.

In his court filing, Keast said profanity-laced threats were aimed at Karen McDonald, the elected county prosecutor. He offered five examples.

“I am … on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. You better be … scared,” he said on Jan. 3, according to Keast.
 

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Michigan school shooter’s parents sentenced to at least 10 years in prison
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ed White
Published Apr 09, 2024 • Last updated 1 day ago • 5 minute read

School-Shooting-Parents-Convicted
In a court filing Wednesday, April 3, 2024, prosecutors in Michigan recommended at least 10 years in prison for the two parents, who are the first in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a school shooting, when they're sentenced Tuesday, April 9.
PONTIAC, Mich. — The first parents convicted in a U.S. mass school shooting were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison Tuesday as a Michigan judge lamented missed opportunities that could have prevented their teenage son from possessing a gun and killing four students in 2021.


“These convictions are not about poor parenting,” Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews said. “These convictions confirm repeated acts, or lack of acts, that could have halted an oncoming runaway train.”


The hearing in a crowded, tense courtroom was the climax of an extraordinary effort to make others besides the 15-year-old attacker criminally responsible for a school shooting.

Jennifer and James Crumbley did not know Ethan Crumbley had a handgun — he called it his “beauty” — in a backpack when he was dropped off at Oxford High School. But prosecutors convinced jurors the parents still played a disastrous role in the violence.

The Crumbleys were accused of not securing the newly purchased gun at home and acting indifferently to signs of their son’s deteriorating mental health, especially when confronted with a chilling classroom drawing earlier that same day.


The Crumbleys earlier this year were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

“The blood of our children is on your hands, too,” Craig Shilling told the couple, wearing a hoodie with the image of son Justin Shilling on his chest.

Nicole Beausoleil, the mother of shooting victim Madisyn Baldwin, said the Crumbleys had failed at parenting.

“While you were purchasing a gun for your son and leaving it unlocked,” Beausoleil said, “I was helping her finish her college essays.”


Prosecutor Karen McDonald asked the judge to stretch beyond the sentencing guidelines and order a minimum 10-year prison sentence.

Defence attorneys sought to keep the Crumbleys out of prison, noting they have already spent nearly 2 1/2 years in jail, unable to afford a $500,000 bond after their arrest.


They will get credit for that jail time and become eligible for parole after serving 10 years in custody. If release from prison is denied, they could be held for up to 15 years.

Five deputies in the suburban Detroit courtroom stood closely over the couple, and more lined the walls. James Crumbley, 47, had been recorded in jail making threats toward McDonald.

Before being sentenced, he stood and insisted he did not know his son was deeply troubled.

“My heart is really broken for everybody involved. … I have cried for you and the loss of your children more times than I can count,” he said.

The couple had separate trials in Oakland County court, 40 miles (64 kilometres) north of Detroit. Jurors saw the teen’s violent drawing on his school assignment and heard testimony about the crucial hours before the attack.


Ethan Crumbley sketched images of a gun, a bullet and a wounded man on a math paper, accompanied by despondent phrases: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. Blood everywhere. My life is useless.”

Ethan Crumbley had told a counsellor he was sad — a grandmother had died and his only friend suddenly had moved away — but said the drawing only reflected his interest in creating video games.

His parents were called to a hasty meeting at school that lasted less than 15 minutes. They did not mention that the gun resembled one James Crumbley had purchased just four days earlier, a Sig Sauer 9 mm.

Mother and son had fired 50 rounds at a shooting range and took 50 more home. Jennifer Crumbley described the gun on social media as an early Christmas gift.


School staff did not demand that the teen go home during the meeting but were surprised when the Crumbleys did not volunteer it. Instead, they left with a list of mental health providers and said they were returning to work.

Later that day, on Nov. 30, 2021, their son pulled a handgun from his backpack and began shooting, killing Shilling, Baldwin, Tate Myre and Hana St. Juliana, and wounding seven other people. No one had checked the bag.

Ethan Crumbley, now 17, is serving a life sentence for murder and other crimes.

The parents ignored “things that would make a reasonable person feel the hair on the back of their neck stand up,” the judge said. “Opportunity knocked over and over again — louder and louder — and was ignored. No one answered.”


Jennifer Crumbley, 46, began her remarks by expressing “deepest sorrow” about the shooting. She also said her comment at her trial about looking back and not doing anything differently was “completely misunderstood.”

“My son did seem so normal. I didn’t have a reason to do anything different,” Jennifer Crumbley said.

She blamed the school for not giving her the “bigger picture” about Ethan Crumbley: sleeping in class, watching a video of a mass shooting, writing negative thoughts about his family.

“The prosecution has tried to mold us into the type of parents society wants to believe are so horrible only a school or mass shooter could be bred from,” Jennifer Crumbley said. “We were good parents. We were the average family.”


During the trials, there was no testimony from specialists about Ethan Crumbley’s mental health. But the judge, over defence objections, allowed the jury to see excerpts from his journal.

“I have zero help for my mental problems and it’s causing me to shoot up the … school,” he wrote. “I want help but my parents don’t listen to me so I can’t get any help.”

Relatives of the victims were not impressed by the Crumbleys’ courtroom comments. Beausoleil said they were portraying themselves as victims.

“The remorse that they were showing has nothing to do with taking accountability for their actions,” Steve St. Juliana, the father of Hana, said outside court. “I’m sure they were sad people lost their lives. I’m sure they’re sad their son is in jail, sad they’re in jail. … What’s important is for them to recognize that they made mistakes.”


The judge will decide later whether the Crumbleys will be allowed to have contact with their son while the three are in separate state prisons, though McDonald, the prosecutor, said the Corrections Department typically prohibits communication between co-defendants.

Defence lawyers said the Crumbleys have a constitutional right to be a family. But McDonald wondered about the parents of the victims.

“The parents in that courtroom have been deprived of their constitutional right to be parents, and that matters,” she told reporters.

— Associated Press writers Corey Williams and Mike Householder contributed to this report.