Jury finds Michigan teenage killer’s mother guilty of manslaughter

6 February 2024, 21:24

School Shooting Mother Charged
School Shooting Mother Charged. Picture: PA

Prosecutors said Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent and could have foreseen the violence before her son opened fire at Oxford High School.

A Michigan jury has convicted a teenage killer’s mother of involuntary manslaughter in a first-of-its-kind trial to determine whether she had any responsibility in the deaths of four students in a 2021 school shooting.

Prosecutors said Jennifer Crumbley was grossly negligent and could have foreseen the violence before her son opened fire at Oxford High School.

She failed to tell school officials that the family had a new 9mm handgun that Ethan Crumbley ultimately used to kill other teenagers. The mother was accused of making the gun accessible at home and not tending to her son’s mental health.

Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in the US to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. James Crumbley, 47, faces trial in March.

The guilty verdicts — one for each student killed at Oxford High School — were returned after roughly 11 hours of jury deliberations.

Crumbley, 45, looked down and shook her head slightly as each juror was polled after the verdicts were read.

School Shooting Mother Charged
Jennifer Crumbley, left, looks at lawyer Shanon Smith in court in in Pontiac, Michigan (Carlos Osorio/AP)

Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews thanked the jurors and said: “We all know that this was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done.”

On her way out of the courtroom, prosecutor Karen McDonald hugged Craig Shilling, the father of victim Justin Shilling, and the family of Madisyn Baldwin.

A gag order by the judge prevented Ms McDonald and defense lawyer Shannon Smith from speaking to reporters.

The school was concerned about a macabre drawing of a gun, bullet and wounded man on the 15-year-old’s maths assignment, accompanied by desperate words: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

But Ethan was allowed to stay in school November 30, 2021, following a brief meeting with the parents, who did not take him home.

The teenager pulled the gun from his backpack that afternoon and shot 10 students and a teacher, killing four students. No one had checked his backpack.

Besides 17-year-old Justin Shilling and 17-year old Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St Juliana, 14, and Tate Myre, 16, were killed. Six students and a teacher were wounded.

In a journal found by police, Ethan Crumbley wrote that his parents would not 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.

The words with the drawing that prompted a counsellor to call the Crumbleys to the school said: “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. My life is useless.”

Prosecutors introduced evidence that Ethan Crumbley texted his mother in spring 2021 about “demons” throwing bowls and other hallucinations. But she told the jury that it was “just Ethan messing around”.

The gun had been purchased just four days earlier on Black Friday by his father, James Crumbley. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to a shooting range that same weekend.

Jennifer Crumbley told jurors that she would not have done anything differently but wished her son had “killed us instead”. She denied that he had mental health problems.

James Crumbley is scheduled for trial in March on the same involuntary manslaughter charges.

Ethan, now 17, is serving a life sentence for murder and terrorism.

“The cries have been heard, and I feel this verdict is gonna echo throughout every household in the country,” Craig Shilling said after the verdict.

“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,” Mr Shilling said.

Jennifer Crumbley will return to court for sentencing on April 9. The judge will set the minimum prison sentence, based on scoring guidelines and other factors.

It will be up to the Michigan parole board to determine how long she actually stays in prison. The maximum term for involuntary manslaughter is 15 years.

Prosecutors have not said if they will ask for consecutive sentences on the four convictions, which could mean a maximum of 60 years if Judge Cheryl Matthews agrees.

By Press Association

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