PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan jury convicted a school shooter’s mother of involuntary manslaughter Tuesday in the killings of four students in 2021, making her the first parent in the U.S. to be held responsible for a child carrying out a school attack.
Prosecutors say Jennifer Crumbley had a duty under Michigan state law to prevent her son, who was 15 at the time, from harming others. She was accused of failing to secure a gun and ammunition at home and failing to get help for Ethan Crumbley’s mental health.
The guilty verdicts — one for each student slain at Oxford High School — were returned after roughly 11 hours of jury deliberations.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, looked down and shook her head slightly as each juror was polled after the verdicts were read.
“We all know that this was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done,” Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews told the jury.
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.
“Thank you,” a man whispered to her.
Jennifer and James Crumbley are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child. James Crumbley faces trial in March.
“The cries have been heard, and I feel this verdict is gonna echo throughout every household in the country,” Craig Shilling told reporters.
“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,” he said.
A gag order by the judge prevented McDonald and defense attorney Shannon Smith from speaking to reporters.
On the morning of Nov. 30, 2021, school staff members were concerned about a violent drawing of a gun, bullet and wounded man, accompanied by desperate phrases, on Ethan Crumbley’s math assignment. His parents were called to the school for a meeting with school staff, but they didn’t take the boy home.
A few hours later, Ethan Crumbley pulled a handgun from his backpack and shot 10 students and a teacher. No one had checked the backpack.
The gun was the Sig Sauer 9 mm his father, James Crumbley, purchased with him just four days earlier. Jennifer Crumbley had taken her son to a shooting range that same weekend.
“You’re the last adult to have possession of that gun,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said while cross-examining the mother last week. “You saw your son shoot the last practice round before the (school) shooting on Nov. 30. You saw how he stood. … He knew how to use the gun.”
She replied, “Yes, he did.”
Besides 17-year-old Justin Shilling and 17-year old Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Tate Myre, 16, were also killed. Seven people were wounded.
Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty to murder and terrorism and is serving a life sentence.
Jennifer Crumbley told jurors that it was her husband’s job to keep track of the gun. She also said she saw no signs of mental distress in her son.
“We would talk. We did a lot of things together,” she testified. “I trusted him, and I felt I had an open door. He could come to me about anything.”
In a journal found by police, Ethan Crumbley wrote that his parents wouldn’t 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 jury of six men and six women included people who own guns or grew up with them in their home. They said they could put their opinions about guns aside and serve fairly.
Jennifer Crumbley will get credit for roughly 2 1/2 years in the county jail when she returns 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 involuntary manslaughter convictions, which could mean a maximum of 60 years if the judge agrees.
Follow Ed White on X at https://twitter.com/edwritez