Like His Mother, School Shooter’s Father Now Found Guilty in Connection to Crime

by Vern Evans
FILE – This undated combination of photos provided by the Oakland County, Mich., Sheriff’s Office shows James Crumbley, left, and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, a teenager accused of killing four students in a shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the Michigan Supreme Court postponed the January 2023 trial for Jennifer and James Crumbley, a victory for defense lawyers who argue that involuntary manslaughter charges do not fit. (Oakland County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

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In a landmark case in Michigan, James Crumbley was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for his indirect role in the tragic 2021 Oxford High School shooting perpetrated by his son, which resulted in the deaths of four students. This conviction aligns with that of his wife, Jennifer Crumbley, each held accountable for their failure to secure a firearm and address their son’s evident mental health crisis. The jury’s decision marks the first time parents have been found criminally liable in connection with a mass school shooting committed by their child. The case sets a precedent for parental responsibility in such incidents, particularly in Michigan, where allowing access to minors has been made a crime in the state’s statutes.

James Crumbley, 47, faced the verdict with disbelief, shaking his head as he was declared guilty and subsequently handcuffed in court. This outcome comes after intense scrutiny of the Crumbleys’ actions leading up to the shooting, including their neglect to remove their son from school after being alerted to his disturbing behavior and violent drawings earlier that day. Despite a school counselor’s recommendation for immediate psychological intervention, Ethan Crumbley was allowed to remain in school, where he later initiated the deadly attack. The school is also being sued in civil court for allowing Crumbley to return to class that day.

The prosecution honed in on the Crumbleys’ missteps, particularly their purchase of the Sig Sauer 9mm handgun used in the shooting just days before the incident and their failure to secure it properly at home. Ethan, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, had unrestricted access to the weapon, a point underscored by the discovery of an unlocked gun case and unused gun lock at the Crumbley residence following the tragedy.

Ethan Crumbley’s trial revealed a young man in turmoil, expressing in his journal a desperate plea for help with his mental health issues, which he felt were ignored by his parents. Now 17, Ethan is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, having pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism charges.

The convictions of James and Jennifer Crumbley, who each face a potential minimum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, underscore the legal and moral responsibilities of gun ownership and parental oversight. Their trials have sparked widespread discussion about the measures needed to prevent such tragedies, including more stringent gun safety laws and enhanced mental health support for youth.

In the wake of the verdict, the broader community continues to grapple with the consequences of gun violence in schools. The case against the Crumbleys, as reported by the Associated Press and other news outlets, serves as a somber reminder of the critical role parents and guardians play in recognizing and addressing the warning signs of violence and mental health distress.

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