Parents of Michigan School Shooter to Be Sentenced for Manslaughter


Jennifer and James Crumbley, who were convicted of involuntary manslaughter for failing to prevent their teenage son from killing four fellow students in the worst school shooting in Michigan’s history, will be sentenced by a judge on Tuesday.

Their separate jury trials ended in guilty verdicts in February and March, making them the first parents in the country to be convicted for the deaths caused by their child in a mass shooting.

Involuntary manslaughter charges carry a penalty in Michigan of up to 15 years in prison, and prosecutors asked in sentencing memos filed to the court last week that the Crumbleys each serve at least 10 years. Both have been in jail for more than two years while awaiting trial and asked the court for a more lenient sentence.

Prosecutors said that Ms. Crumbley, 46, was asking to be sentenced to house arrest on her defense lawyer’s property, rather than serving prison time. And Mr. Crumbley said that he had been wrongly convicted and his sentence should amount to the time he had already served in prison, adding that he felt “absolutely horrible” about what had happened.

Prosecutors revealed that Mr. Crumbley, 47, had made threatening statements from jail about Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor who made the rare decision to hold the shooter’s parents criminally responsible. Mr. Crumbley’s jail communications privileges were restricted during the trial, but the reason for that action was not revealed at the time.

Prosecutors said that Mr. Crumbley made a phone call from jail in January in which he said that he was “on a rampage,” and that Ms. McDonald “better be scared,” adding an expletive. Mariell Lehman, Mr. Crumbley’s lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Crumbleys will be sentenced by Judge Cheryl Matthews of the Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Mich., who oversaw their trials.

The Crumbleys’ son, Ethan, was 15 when he carried out the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting at Oxford High School that killed Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Hana St. Juliana, 14. Seven others were injured. He pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree murder, and was sentenced last year to life in prison without parole. He is still eligible to appeal that decision. His parents may appeal, too.

In the trials of both parents, prosecutors focused in part on their failure to remove their son from school after he made a violent drawing on the morning of the shooting. It included a written plea for help.

They also emphasized Ethan’s access to a handgun that Mr. Crumbley had purchased. And they said that Ms. Crumbley had missed signs that her son was struggling with his mental health, adding that she took him to a gun range just days before the shooting.

The parents requested separate trials, and Ms. Crumbley chose to testify, while Mr. Crumbley did not take the stand. Defense lawyers for both parents said they could not have foreseen the unspeakable violence their son would commit.

Their trials became a lightning rod for issues of parental responsibility at a time of high-profile gun violence by minors. In recent months, parents in other states have pleaded guilty to charges of reckless conduct or neglect after their children injured or killed others with guns.

But the manslaughter charges against the Crumbleys were unique, and legal experts aid their trials could serve as a playbook for other prosecutors who seek to hold parents accountable in the future.

Prosecutors said in their sentencing memos that Ms. Crumbley and her defense lawyer, Shannon Smith, had asked for Ms. Crumbley to be released from prison “on a tether with house arrest” and had suggested that Ms. Crumbley could stay at Ms. Smith’s guesthouse in Oakland County.

Prosecutors called that idea “a slap in the face to the severity of the tragedy caused by the defendant’s gross negligence.”

In Ms. Crumbley’s own statement, according to the same memo, she said that “there are so many things that I would change if I could go back in time.” She added that she saw her son as “a quiet, good kid” and that she “never imagined he would hurt other people in the way that he did.”

Ms. Smith declined a request to be interviewed..



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