Parents of school shooting suspect make tearful court appearance after manhunt

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The fugitive parents of accused Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley broke down in court Saturday morning as their involuntary manslaughter charges were read aloud, and the judge set their bail at $500,000 each.

James, 45, and Jennifer, 43, Crumbley were captured early Saturday in the basement of a building on the 1100 block of Bellevue Street in Detroit, less than half a mile from the Canadian border, police said. They were taken into custody after leading authorities on a large-scale manhunt.


Both Crumbleys pled not guilty to all four charges of involuntary manslaughter – one for each high school student who was killed in the school shooting Tuesday.

Each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison along with a $7,500 fine and mandatory DNA testing.

Judge Julie Nicholson announced that their bond must be paid in full, and they will be required to wear a GPS tether if they make bail. The couple have been booked at Oakland County Jail and remained there following the arraignment.

James and Jennifer were arraigned first around 9:30 a.m. as they joined the video conference from separate rooms at the jail. They called into the 52nd District Court, 3rd Division District Court with their legal council Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman.

Both Crumbleys broke down as Jennifer’s charges and potential jail time was read by the judge. Jennifer was noticeably distraught and sat hunched over with her face in her hands for most of the virtual meeting.

‘I understand,’ Jennifer replied through tears as Nicholson read each charge. James shook his head in disagreement as prosecutor Karen McDonald summarized her version of the case implicating the parents’ in their son’s deadly rampage.

‘These two individuals could have stopped it and had every reason to know he was dangerous,’ McDonald said. She claimed that not one person in the community would vouch in favor of either Crumbley.

Police were led to the commercial building by a tip from a Detroit business owner and were captured on video going inside, Detroit Police Chief James White said early Saturday morning. Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said a woman was spotted near the vehicle and ran away when the business owner called police.

White also said the two did not break in and were helped by an unnamed accomplice who let them into the building.

Their connection to the building is unclear; other charges connected to aiding the Crumbleys are likely, White said.

Police including State Troopers and US Marshalls from the Fugitive Task Force search a building of interest in the manhunt

Their arrest was without incident and came after the U.S. Marshals offered a $10,000 bounty for information leading to their capture when they fled Friday after involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the school massacre perpetrated by their son were announced.

‘We understand that our clients were apprehended last night although we fully intended to turn them in first thing this morning for arraignment, contrary to the misinformation that has been rampant in the media.

‘Unfortunately, this case presents the most unimaginable tragedy for every single person involved, including every member of the community. While it’s human nature to want to find someone to blame or something to point to or something that gives us answers, the charges in this case are intended to make an example and send a message. The prosecution has very much cherry- picked and slanted specific facts to further their narrative to do that.

‘We intend to fight this case in the courtroom and not in the court of public opinion. We know that in the end the entire story and truth will prevail,’ the Crumbleys’ lawyers said ahead of the arraignment Saturday.

Around 10 p.m. Friday, hours after a 4 p.m. deadline for their surrender, police found the couple’s abandoned black 2021 Kia Seltos SUV on the east side of Detroit, within walking distance to the Detroit River, which forms the border between Canada and the U.S.

Detroit Police launched a massive manhunt for the parents in the area around the abandoned Kia, locking down a radius of several blocks and deploying K-9 units to track their possible path on foot.

White said the two were hiding in a room in the basement of the building, which is used for artwork, and that both were ‘distressed’ and ‘very upset’ with one of the parents hanging their head down when they were arrested. They were not armed.

Prosecutors say the parents bought the gun their son used to kill four as a Christmas present on Black Friday, and failed to secure it after he penned a disturbing note saying ‘thoughts won’t stop, help me.’ They each face 15 years in prison if convicted.

Law enforcement sources say the couple withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and were last seen around 2-3 p.m. near Rochester Hills on Friday. They had been under surveillance at a motel where they had been staying since the shooting on Tuesday.

Video shows a handcuffed Jennifer Crumbley walking into the Oakland County Jail early Saturday morning

Due to a communication breakdown between agencies, the surveillance was suspended by Friday morning and the parents left the motel unobserved before the charges were announced by prosecutors, according to WDIV-TV.

The Crumbleys’ attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman had earlier insisted that their clients were not on the lam and were returning to face the charges.

‘On Thursday night we contacted the Oakland County prosecutor to discuss this matter and to advise her that James and Jennifer Crumbley would be turning themselves in to be arraigned,’ the lawyers said in a statement obtained by

‘Instead of communicating with us, the prosecutor held a press conference to announce charges.

‘The Crumbleys left town on the night of the tragic shooting for their own safety. They are returning to the area to be arraigned. They are not fleeing from law enforcement despite recent comments in media reports.’

However, Smith and Lehman didn’t say when or whether a voluntary surrender had been arranged, and the Oakland County Sheriff’s office said it was not aware of any such plans.

‘This isn’t indicative of turning yourself in — hiding in a warehouse,’ White said.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he only learned of the charges being filed against the Crumbleys from media reports and had no advance warning from the prosecutors, which he said would have allowed his agency to secure the suspects before the charges were made public.

He told CNN police began searching for the Crumbleys after the couple’s attorney told his office that the Crumbleys stopped responding to messages Friday afternoon.

‘If they think they’re going to get away, they’re not,’ Bouchard had said, adding that a ‘host’ of detectives, as well as the FBI and the US Marshals Service, were looking for them.

After the attorneys for the Crumbley parents claimed they were returning to face charges, local law enforcement said they were unaware of such an arrangement.

‘If they are, it’s news to us,’ Undersheriff Mike McCabe told ABC News, saying authorities still don’t know where the couple is located.

In charging the parents, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald alleged that the parents ignored multiple warning signs and refused to take their son out of school just hours before the shooting took place.

Jennifer bragged on social media about going out with Ethan to test his Christmas present – a 9mm handgun – just three days before the shooting at Oxford High School, and just one day after her husband James had purchased the gun for Ethan.

During a press conference Friday, McDonald revealed stunning new details leading up to the shooting that took place Tuesday afternoon, including that Jennifer texted her son about 30 minutes after the rampage saying, ‘Ethan, don’t do it,’ and that her husband James called 911 to report that his gun – a 9 mm Sig Sauer SP 2022 – was missing and that Ethan was likely the shooter.

The prosecutor revealed that James, who – like his wife – had a prior criminal history, bought the murder weapon from a retailer with his son there on November 26. He stored the 9mm handgun in an unlocked drawer in his bedroom, McDonald said.

The next day, Jennifer posted about the Christmas present to Instagram with the caption: ‘Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas [sic] present.’ Jennifer’s Instagram account has since been taken down.

Two days later, on November 29, McDonald said a teacher at Oxford High School observed Ethan searching ammunition on his cell during class and reported it to school officials.

Ethan had a meeting with school administrators, and his mother Jennifer was contacted via voicemail by the school about her son’s inappropriate internet search. Officials also followed up with an email but received no response, the prosecutor said.

The mother later exchanged texts with her son on that day stating: ‘lol, I’m not mad at you, you have to learn not to get caught,’ McDonald said Friday.

She also revealed that on the morning of the shooting, a teacher found a chilling note on Ethan’s desk, which featured disturbing drawings depicting a semi-automatic gun, a bullet, a shooting victim and a laughing emoji.

According to the prosecutor, the note included the words ‘blood everywhere,’ ‘thoughts won’t stop, help me,’ ‘my life is useless’ and ‘the world is dead.’

Jennifer and James were immediately summoned to the school to discuss their son’s worrying behavior. A school counselor was able to obtain the note with the drawings, but McDonald said by then its contents had been ‘altered.’

The doodles of the gun and the bullet-ridden figure were ‘scratched out,’ as well as Ethan’s writings.

During the meeting, the Crumbleys were shown the note and were advised that they were required to get Ethan into counselling within 48 hours.

According to the prosecutor, the mother and father failed to ask Ethan if he had his gun with him, or where his gun was, and did not inspect his backpack.

McDonald said the parents ‘resisted’ the idea of pulling their son out of school at that time and left without him.

Officials previously said that at 12:51 p.m., Ethan walked into a bathroom at Oakland High School with a backpack, then emerged less than a minute later carrying the Sig Sauer handgun and opened fire.

At 1:22 p.m. – more than 30 minutes after the shooting was first reported – Jennifer texted her son, saying: ‘Ethan, don’t do it,’ the prosecutor said.

At 1:37 p.m., James called 911, reporting his newly purchased gun missing. He also told an emergency dispatcher that he believed his son might be the shooter at Oxford High School.

James and Jennifer were scheduled to be arraigned Friday at 4 p.m., but authorities reported the pair were not in custody as of late Friday afternoon.

Charging documents allege that the parents caused the death of each of the four deceased victims by ‘storing his or her firearm and its ammunition so as to allow access to the firearm and ammunition by his or her minor child or the grossly negligent failure… to exercise reasonable care to control his or her minor child so as to prevent him from intentionally harming others or from so conducting himself so as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to others knowing that he or she has the ability to control his or her child and knowing of the necessity and opportunity to do so.’

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement on Friday that she agrees with McDonald’s decision to criminally charge the Crumbleys.

‘I fully support Prosecutor McDonald’s issuance of charges against Jennifer and James Crumbley,’ she wrote. ‘Demanding accountability of a child’s parents under the circumstances presented is not just appropriate, it’s crucial. Justice demands no less.

‘My heart continues to go out to the families who lost their child in this unfathomable tragedy. We must not let this pass without properly addressing gun violence and responsible gun ownership.’

Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where the probability of harm or death was high.

‘The parents were the only individuals in the position to know the access to weapons,’ McDonald said Thursday. The gun, which Ethan’s father, James Crumbley, had just purchased four days before the rampage, ‘seems to have been just freely available to that individual.’

‘These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility.

‘When they fail to uphold that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences.’

Ethan has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, for the shooting on Tuesday.

He is being held without bail at Oakland County Jail – the same location where his parents are currently being held.

The school shooting – the deadliest in the U.S. since 2018 – claimed the lives of Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven more people were injured. Three were in hospitals in stable condition.

At an arraignment in Pontiac, Michigan, on Wednesday Ethan sat mum, masked and suited in a heavy suicide-prevention vest, while attorneys and his parents joined in by video conference.

The teen was charged as an adult because the crimes are ‘serious’ and the attack was premeditated.

Prosecutors described watching ‘horrific’ surveillance video footage of the shooting.

‘What’s depicted on that video, honestly, judge, I don’t have the words to describe how horrific that was,’ Assistant Prosecutor Marc Keast told a judge on Wednesday.

Keast said the video of the attack showed Crumbley enter a bathroom at the school with a backpack before he emerged with a gun.

‘At that point, he deliberately aimed the gun at students and began firing at students. After students started running he continued down the hallway pointing the gun and firing (at them) and firing in classrooms and at students who were unable to escape.

‘He methodically and deliberately walked down a hallway, aiming the firearm at students and firing. After children started running away from the defendant, he continued down the hallway again at a deliberate and methodical pace, pointing and aiming inside classrooms and at students who hadn’t had the opportunity to escape,’Keast said.

On an Instagram account that has since been deleted, there were sinister, horror-movie style faces, along with more recent posts of a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol and a paper target with bullet holes through it.

It was not possible to independently verify the account but police said Ethan ‘had been shooting with [the 9mm handgun] and posted pictures of a target and the weapon.’

In 2016, Jennifer wrote a rambling open letter to then-President Donald Trump, praising his support for Second Amendment rights – a sentiment that was echoed in her husband’s Facebook comment, where he also wrote that he wanted his child ‘to get a gun.’

In her letter, the 43-year-old mom wrote in part: ‘as a female and a Realtor, thank you for allowing my right to bear arms. Allowing me to be protected if I show a home to someone with bad intentions. Thank you for respecting that Amendment.’

Jennifer also spoke of her son’s struggles with math in school, appearing to blame Common Core, and complained about illegal immigration and the woes of middle class Americans.

Parents are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even as most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.

Michigan has no law on the books that requires gun owners to keep weapons locked away from children. McDonald, however, suggested there’s more to build a case on.

All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,’ she told WJR-AM. ‘We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent. … There are other individuals who should be held accountable.’

Sheriff Mike Bouchard disclosed Wednesday that the parents met with school officials about their son’s classroom behavior, just a few hours before the shooting.

McDonald said information about what had troubled the school ‘will most likely come to light soon.’

Investigators said the attack was premeditated, citing videos Crumbley recorded the night before in which he talked about shooting students, as well as a journal recovered from his backpack that described his intent to murder classmates.

Crumbley stayed in school Tuesday and later emerged from a bathroom with his father’s new gun, firing at students in the hallway, police said.

The superintendent for the district late Thursday posted a YouTube video where he said the teenager was called to the office before the shooting but ‘no discipline was warranted.’

im Throne, leader of Oxford Community Schools, said the high school looks like a ‘war zone’ and won´t be ready for weeks. But he repeatedly credited students and staff for how they responded to the violence.

‘To say that I am still in shock and numb is probably an understatement. These events that have occurred will not define us,’ Throne, grim-faced and speaking slowly, said in the 12-minute video.

‘I want you to know that there´s been a lot of talk about the student who was apprehended, that he was called up to the office and all that kind of stuff. No discipline was warranted,’ Throne said. ‘There are no discipline records at the high school. Yes this student did have contact with our front office, and, yes, his parents were on campus Nov. 30.’

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