Michigan shooting suspect’s parents willfully disregarded signs that their son was a threat, prosecutors say
Sonia Moghe, CNN
Published at | Updated at
(CNN) — Prosecutors in a filing say the parents of alleged Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley are at a “greater risk of flight” now than when they were arraigned on involuntary manslaughter charges earlier this month and allege the couple “willfully ignored the needs and well-being of their son and the threat he posed to others.”
Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged as an adult in the November 30 shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan that left four students dead. The shooting also left seven others — six students and a teacher — injured.
Crumbley faces one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. At arraignment the judge entered a plea of not guilty per a request from Crumbley’s attorney.
James and Jennifer Crumbley were arrested on four counts each of involuntary manslaughter and have pleaded not guilty.
“Defendants were in a better position than anyone else in the world to prevent this tragedy, but they failed to do so,” the filing states.
CNN has contacted attorneys for the couple for comment.
The prosecutors’ filing is in response to the Crumbleys’ request for modified bond and details how the couple is more than $11,000 behind on their house payments, have sold their horses and have “already shown that they will flee if they get the opportunity.” The filing also details that the parents had four cell phones at the time of their arrest and “attempted to destroy one of the phones.”
In the filing, prosecutors said the bond was “properly set” at $500,000.
“The facts laid out in the brief we submitted to the court today speak for themselves,” Oakland County, Michigan, Chief Assistant Prosecutor David Williams said in a statement. “And based on those facts, we strongly believe that the bond for James and Jennifer Crumbley was set appropriately.”
The filing alleges that when the Crumbleys left their son’s school on November 30, over an hour before the shooting began, they knew their son was depressed and “fascinated with guns.”
The filing details Ethan Crumbley’s state of mind in the six months before the shooting, saying his parents were aware that he was “sadder than usual,” that his only friend had moved away, and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind.
Prosecutors allege that while their son was struggling, his parents spent several hours a night, three to four nights a week, at a barn caring for their horses and that one of the parents was having extramarital affairs.
The filing emphasizes the defendants were focused on their “own issues,” including “substance abuse issues.”
Prosecutors also allege that Ethan Crumbley had been torturing animals and kept a “baby bird’s head in a jar on his bedroom floor.”
“Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun,” the filing states.
Prosecutors also allege in the filing that after the shooting the Crumbleys retained attorneys for themselves but not their son and that Jennifer Crumbley said to a co-worker and in a text that “her son’s destiny is done and she has to take care of herself.”
Prosecutors accuse the Crumbleys of “willful disregard” of the clear evidence that their son posed a serious risk to other students on the day of the shooting and argue that all the parents had to do was tell the school they’d recently purchased a gun for him, ask him where the gun was, open his backpack “or just take him home.”
Prosecutors said their case against the couple is strong and “even stronger” than it was when they were arraigned.
The filing attached two versions of a drawing allegedly made by Ethan Crumbley on a geometry test from the day of the shooting that included a picture of a gun and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop help me.” Prosecutors allege Crumbley made “modifications” to the drawing after it was discovered.
“In school shootings, it is not uncommon to find evidence of intent and planning after the shooting. What is novel about this case is the Defendants were made aware, in graphic form, of the serious risk posed by their son prior to the shooting,” the filing states.
A teacher found the drawing on Crumbley’s desk, according to prosecutors. That led school officials to hold a meeting with Crumbley and his parents, who were instructed to help provide counseling for their son within 48 hours, school officials have said.
The parents declined to take their son out of school that day and he was allowed to return to the classroom, according to prosecutors.
Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Tim Throne has said that because the suspect had no prior disciplinary actions on his record, school counselors decided to allow him to return to class, rather than send him to what they thought would be an empty home.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, has a national helpline — 800-662-HELP (4357) — which provides free, confidential treatment referral and information in English and Spanish 24/7, every day of the year.
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