Mother becomes first US parent to be convicted over their child's mass shooting

7 February 2024, 10:52

Jennifer Crumbley shackled in court (l) and (bottom right) with son Ethan. Top right memorial at Oxford High School
Jennifer Crumbley shackled in court (l) and bottom with son. Picture: Alamy

By StephenRigley

The mother of a US school shooter is facing 60 years in jail after being convicted of involuntary manslaughter for her role in his crime.

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Jennifer Crumbley is the first American parent to ever be convicted of the crime over a mass shooting carried out by their child.

Prosecutors argued that Crumbley was so negligent as a parent that she was partly to blame when her son Ethan, then 15, killed four people and injured seven at Oxford High School in Pontiac, Michigan, in November 2021.

The trial heard that Crumbley was more interested in an extramarital affair, her horses and going for nights out on the town, than spending time with her mentally disturbed son.

Jennifer Crumbley is taken into custody after being convicted convicted  of involuntary manslaughter in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students in 2021.
Jennifer Crumbley is taken into custody after being convicted convicted of involuntary manslaughter in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students in 2021. Picture: Alamy

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After deliberating for 11 hours jurors found her guilty on four counts of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors argued that she had multiple opportunities to prevent her son's rampage on November 30, 2021.The mum remained still with her eyes closed and biting her bottom lip as the jury foreperson read the guilty verdict aloud.

Crumbley, 45, was led into the courtroom in shackles to hear the verdict on Tuesday. After deliberating for 11 hours the jury found her guilty on all four counts.

Jennifer Crumbley
Jennifer Crumbley. Picture: Alamy

Crumbley's husband James' trial is scheduled to begin on March 5. He is also charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The verdict is seen as setting a new legal standard as it marks the first time a parent of a school shooter was held accountable for a role in their child's crimes.

McDonald said the parents failed to give their son proper mental health treatment despite repeated warning signs, including meetings with school administrators over some worrying drawings.

Ethan Crumbley
Ethan Crumbley. Picture: Alamy

Read More: Student gunman, 17, kills child and injures several others in Iowa school shooting

On the morning of the shooting, a teacher discovered a harrowing note on Ethan's desk.It was a drawing of a gun pointing at the words "the thoughts won't stop. Help me".Next to it was a drawing of a person who had been shot twice with the words "blood everywhere", "my life is useless" and "the world is dead".

Ethan's parents were called into the school that morning at 10am - but later left and around three hours later, the teen took a gun out of his backpack and killed his fellow students.

During the trial, defence lawyer Shannon Smith said that the case was "dangerous" to parents.

She asked the jury to find Crumbley not guilty "for every parent doing the best they can, who could easily be in (her) shoes."

Four students - Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17 - were shot and killed during the rampage. Seven others were injured.

Outside court Justin's father Craig Shilling said: "The cries have been heard, and I feel this verdict is gonna echo throughout every household in the country.

"I feel it's necessary, and I'm happy with the verdict. It's still a sad situation to be in. It's gotta stop. It's an accountability, and this is what we've been asking for for a long time now."

Students hug at a memorial following a shooting at Oxford High School
Students hug at a memorial following a shooting at Oxford High School. Picture: Alamy

Ethan is already serving life in prison after admitting 24 counts including murder.

The 17-year-old told a Michigan courtroom that he wanted the families of the victims to be happy with the sentencing outcome and apologized for what he did.

"I am a really bad person, I've done some terrible things. I've hurt many people," Ethan said at his sentencing hearing in December.

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