“Don’t do it,” the mother of suspected gunman Ethan Crumbley texted him on the day of the deadly attack, but she wasn’t referring to his imminent assault on a Michigan high school. Instead, attorneys for Jennifer and Jason Crumbley said, she was telling him not to commit suicide.
Jennifer Crumbley’s lackluster appeal to her son was a symptom of a larger pattern of alleged parental neglect disclosed by prosecutors this week in the couple’s ongoing trial. In court documents filed Thursday, prosecutors alleged the Crumbleys ignored “troubling” red flags from their son, including instances of animal torture and disturbing, bloody sketches. Instead, they spent hours with their cherished horses and—in Jennifer’s case—doggedly pursued an extramarital affair.
“The defendants had information long before Nov. 30 (six months prior to the shooting) that their son’s only friend moved at the end of October, that the family dog died, that their son was sadder than usual, and that he was sending his mother disturbing texts about his state of mind,” one filing said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Instead of paying attention to their son and getting him help, they bought him a gun.”
Now, the Crumbley parents are staring down charges of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in a case “unprecedented” in the state, according to former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Their son, Ethan Crumbley, has been charged with 24 felonies, including four counts of murder and one count of terrorism. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges, and will be tried as an adult. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The Crumbleys “knew their son was depressed, that he was fascinated with guns… that he had been researching ammunition while at a school and that he was seen watching violent videos of shootings that morning,” according to prosecutors, but they purchased the gun for Ethan as an early Christmas present anyway, leaving it in an unlocked armoire.
On Nov. 30, Ethan Crumbley allegedly took the Sig Sauer 9mm to Oxford High School. The subsequent mass shooting he is accused of committing ended in the deaths of four students: Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17. Six other students and a 47-year-old teacher were wounded, according to authorities.
The Crumbleys were present at the high school on the morning of the shooting, called in after a teacher spotted Ethan’s “concerning drawings and written statements,” including phrases like: “the thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” “bloody everywhere,” and “my life is useless.” Asked to take their son home for the day, the Crumbleys reportedly refused and left, according to a letter by the Oxford Community Schools Superintendent. But there had been other warning signs, too.
In her Thursday filing, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald outlined how Ethan Crumbley “was torturing animals (and) even kept a baby bird’s head in a jar on his bedroom floor, which he later took and placed in a school bathroom.” But, she continued, “the parents were focusing on their own issues, things like extramarital affairs, financial issues and substance abuse.” The couple also spent up to three hours a night, three or four times a week, caring for their horses at a nearby barn, McDonald wrote.
The prosecutor also noted in her filing that Jennifer Crumbley had told her boyfriend on the day of the shooting that the alleged murder weapon had been in her car. After news of the Oxford shooting broke, and Crumbley texted her son, “Don’t do it,” it was previously reported, James Crumbley called 911 to report the gun was missing and that his son might be the suspected gunman.
The prosecutor made the shocking disclosures in a response to the defense’s request that Jennifer and Jason Crumbley be granted a lower bond of $100,000 cash, down from the current $500,000. The couple’s lawyers argued the pair posed no flight risk or danger to the public. The day-long manhunt that ended in the Crumbleys being cornered by law enforcement in an artist’s studio on Dec. 4 had not been the result of an attempt to flee, the defense said, adding that the parents had planned to turn themselves in later that day.
The Crumbley team’s request, made Wednesday, also revealed the alleged true origins of Jennifer Crumbley’s “Don’t do it” text, the Free Press reported.
“When Mrs. Crumbley texted Ethan, ‘Don’t do it,’… the shootings had already happened, Mr. Crumbley had determined the gun was missing and had notified authorities, and Mrs. Crumbley was texting her son to tell him not to kill himself,” the defense wrote, stating later that the “devastated” Crumbleys “did not know Ethan was a threat to anyone; and they certainly did not anticipate or cause the tragedy that unfolded at Oxford High School.”
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