News & Current Affairs

Jennifer Crumbley: Manslaughter Sentence Handed Down to Mother of Michigan Shooter, Father Awaits Trial

By Azeezat Okunlola | Feb 7, 2024

After a Michigan mother failed to intervene to prevent her son from carrying out a tragic school shooting, a jury convicted her guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

For a mass massacre committed by their kid, Jennifer Crumbley, 45, became the first American parent to be found guilty of manslaughter. Her son, now 17, had a pistol, and the prosecution said she was careless for letting him have it and for disregarding warning flags.

 

The same accusations are also being tried separately against her husband, James. He filed a not-guilty plea. On November 30, 2021, at Oxford High School in Michigan, their son killed four classmates. He is receiving a life sentence in jail.

The shooting also wounded seven others. The judge, speaking to jurors, said this was probably "the hardest thing you've ever done".

During Tuesday's judgement hearing in Oakland County court, four charges of involuntary manslaughter, with a potential penalty of fifteen years each, were brought against Ms Crumbley.

Some of the victims' loved ones were satisfied with the decision.

"The People spoke!" Buck Myre, the father of Tate Myre, a 16-year-old killed in the shooting, told the BBC in a statement. "You can agree or disagree with the people, but this is how the system is supposed to work."

The trial revolved on the central topic of whether the mother had the ability to predict and avert the murder.

A few days before the incident, Ms Crumbley and her husband, James, purchased the firearm that their son used.

The police filed charges against them not long after the murders occurred. After receiving a tip from the public, police searched for the two and eventually located them in an industrial building in Detroit.

They have been held in a county prison for almost two years now, unable to post bail.

The parents, who had been initially scheduled to stand trial together, petitioned for separate trials in November. The trial of James Crumbley is set to take place in March.

Prosecutors said that Ethan Crumbley's parents refused to seek treatment for their son's mental health issues, despite his numerous pleas for assistance and complaints of hallucinations, throughout. During her testimony, Ms Crumbley denied any mental health issues her son may have had.

On the morning of the shooting, the parents cut short a school meeting about a disturbing drawing their son had made to go to work and declined to take the then 15-year-old home.

School officials sent him back to class without checking his backpack, which contained a gun.

He murdered 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 16-year-old Myre, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin, and 17-year-old Justin Shilling within hours after that.

The Crumbleys' trials, according to some experts, might pave the way for more accusations against parents of mass murderers' children.

University of Pennsylvania law and psychiatry professor Stephen J. Morse expressed his disagreement with the decision, claiming that the sole responsibility for the shooting should have rested with Ethan Crumbley according to his guilty plea.

"I understand that she was not necessarily the best mother in the world, but this is not a crime," he said.

Mr Morse expressed his concern that the ruling would lead to a pattern of courts seeking for "scapegoats" in future cases.

Some argue that the exceptional circumstances of this case mean it will not likely have any broader consequences.

Frank Vandervort, a clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan, said, "I don't fear that this is going to open the floodgates to parents being charged in a run of the mill case, if there is such a thing."

"I think the facts of this case are so unique and sort of extreme."

Throughout the two-week trial, prosecutors maintained their argument that Ms Crumbley disregarded her son's private messages pleading for assistance.

Before going to the school meeting on the day of the shooting, Ms Crumbley expressed her fear that her son might do "something dumb" in texts she had with a guy she had an affair with.

At her trial, Ms Crumbley attempted to frame her husband for buying a pistol for their kid when she testified in her own defence. Her husband, she told the jury, took their kid shopping for a pistol the day after Thanksgiving so he might get a present.

According to her, she "didn't feel comfortable" taking responsibility of the gun and instead let James Crumbley handle it.

It was anticipated that Ethan Crumbley would assert his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination and decline to testify, therefore he never took the stand.

The victims' families are upset that the school administration has not been held to the same standards of justice as Mr and Ms Crumbley.

"Why isn't the system allowing the people to decide when it comes to the failures at the school?" Mr Myre spoke with the BBC after Tuesday's ruling.

"Is our government under a different set of rules?"

Last year, an independent review claimed that the school system had failed on numerous counts, one of which was permitting Ethan to go back to class without having his bag checked.

In light of the findings in the study, the school system has committed to evaluating and enhancing its procedures and policies.