Enough evidence exists to send the involuntary manslaughter charges filed against the parents of Ethan Crumbley — the teenager who opened fire in 2021 at Oxford High School, killing four — to trial, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday.
Authorities charged Jennifer and James Crumbley with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, one charge for each death caused by their son. Prosecutors said they ignored Ethan Crumbley’s mental instability despite his attempts to get help and bought the gun he used in the shooting.
In its decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that the evidence showed a jury could find that the mass shooting stemmed from the Crumbleys’ alleged gross negligence in regard to their son. Judges highlighted events on the morning of the shooting, when Ethan Crumbley was caught watching a shooting video on his cellphone and later drew concerning scribbles on a math worksheet, including one of a person bleeding from bullet holes and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop Help me.” They also pointed to the fact that James Crumbley bought the gun for his son, which Ethan Crumbley said was an early Christmas gift.
“One of the few reasonably foreseeable outcomes of failing to secure the firearm that was gifted to (Ethan Crumbley) was that it would be accessible to (Ethan Crumbley) and that, in his mentally deteriorated condition, he might use it in unlawful ways,” the court wrote in its opinion.
“In light of those foreseeable events, when presented with what he had just drawn, written, and viewed that morning, a reasonable juror could conclude that it was foreseeable that (Ethan Crumbley) possessed his recently gifted gun and intended to use it that day.”
The court also detailed several instances in which Ethan Crumbley exhibited paranoid behavior. He told his parents months before the shooting that he thought someone was in the house while he was alone and later said he thought a demon was in the home. He told a friend that he was hearing voices and seeing people, leading him to believe that he might be having a mental breakdown. However, when he asked his parents to take him to a doctor, he said his dad refused “instead giving him pills and telling him to ‘suck it up,’” according to the court.
The Crumbleys “were actively involved in (Ethan Crumbley’s) mental state remaining untreated, … provided him with the weapon used to kill the victims, and … refused to remove him from the situation that led directly to the shootings,” according to the three-judge panel.
The Crumbleys are expected to appeal the decision, according to the Detroit Free Press. The couple has argued that they are not at fault and that they had no idea their son would commit a mass shooting, the newspaper reported.
The Michigan Court of Appeals acknowledged the Crumbleys’ argument in its opinion, but said “these issues are based on the facts and what is reasonably foreseeable under an objective standard, and the circumstances defendants were presented with on November 30, 2021, provided a heightened set of warnings that could lead a jury to find causation.”
Last year, Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges in the shooting at Oxford High School. He was 15 when he shot and killed Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17.
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