A jury found the mother of the Michigan school shooter guilty of manslaughter

A jury has found Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Michigan school shooter, guilty of four counts of manslaughter.

Prosecutors said Crombley was grossly negligent and could have foreseen the violence before her son opened fire at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021.

The guilty verdicts — one for each student killed — were returned Tuesday after about 11 hours of jury deliberations.

Prosecutors say Crombley had a duty under Michigan law to prevent her son Ethan, who was 15 at the time, from harming others. She is accused of failing to have a gun and ammunition in the home and failing to get help for her son’s mental health.

The weapon — a 9mm handgun — had been purchased just four days earlier on Black Friday by the boy’s father, James Crumbley. Jennifer Crumbley took her son to the shooting range that same weekend.

“You’re the last person to have that gun,” Assistant District Attorney Mark Keast said during cross-examination of Jennifer Crombley last week.

“I saw your son shoot the last practice round before the (school) shooting on November 30. I saw how he stood…he knew how to use the gun.”

“Yes, he did,” the teen’s mother replied.

The jury of six men and six women included people who owned guns or grew up with them in their homes. They said they could put their opinions about guns aside and serve fairly.

Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews thanked the jurors and said, “We all know this was one of the hardest things you have ever done.”

Judge Cheryl Matthews speaks with Assistant District Attorney Mark Keast and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, Monday, February 5, 2024 in Pontiac, Michigan.
Judge Cheryl Matthews, center, speaks with Assistant Prosecutor Mark Keast and Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald in court Monday. (Carlos Osorio/The Associated Press)

The victim’s father is happy with the ruling

Jennifer Crombley will get credit for spending nearly two and a half years in county jail when she returns to court for sentencing on April 9. The judge will determine the minimum prison sentence, based on registration guidelines and other factors.

It will be up to the Michigan Parole Board to determine how long you actually spend in prison. The maximum term for manslaughter is 15 years. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek consecutive sentences for the four manslaughter convictions, which could mean a maximum of 60 years if the judge agrees.

“I’ve heard the screams, and I feel like this sentence will resonate in every family in the country,” Craig Schilling, the father of victim Justin Schilling, told reporters.

“I feel it’s necessary, and I’m happy with the ruling. It’s still a sad situation. It has to stop. It’s accountability, and it’s what we’ve been demanding for a long time now.” He said.

The judge’s gag order prevented prosecutor Karen McDonald and defense attorney Shannon Smith from speaking to reporters.

A bald man with glasses and a plaid shirt sits in a wood-paneled room and looks at a blonde woman in a plaid jacket who reaches out to touch his shoulder while an armed, uniformed deputy stands at the door.
Craig Schilling, left, father of Justin Schilling, the victim of the Oxford High School shooting, speaks to McDonald before the trial began last month. (Mandy Wright/Detroit Free Press/Associated Press)

Gun, wounded man drawn in math task

On the morning of the shooting, the school was concerned about a gruesome drawing of a gun, a bullet, and a wounded man in Ethan’s math assignment, accompanied by the words: “Thoughts won’t stop. Help me. The world is dead. Life is useless.” But he was allowed to stay at school after a brief meeting with his parents, who did not take him home.

The teen took the gun out of his backpack that afternoon and shot 10 students and a teacher, killing four students. No one checked his bag.

In her closing argument on Friday, MacDonald said she was bringing unprecedented charges because of the “unique and terrible” facts that led up to the massacre.

School officials insisted they would not have agreed to keep Ethan Crombley on campus that day if his parents had shared information about the new gun, which the boy called “beautiful,” on social media.

“He literally painted a picture of what he was going to do,” McDonald said. “She says, ‘Help me.’” ”

Handwritten messages were left at the memorial site on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan.
Handwritten messages were left at a memorial site outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan. In November 2021, a 15-year-old killed four students and injured seven others in a shooting at a north Oakland school district. (Jake May/The Flint Journal/The Associated Press)

The mother denied that her son had mental health problems

Crombley, 45, told the jury she would not have done anything differently but wished her son had “killed us instead”. She denied that he had mental health problems.

“We were talking. We did a lot of things together,” she testified. “I trusted him, and I felt like the door was open to me. He could come to me about anything.”

But in a note found by police, Ethan wrote that his parents did not listen to his pleas for help.

“I have no help for my mental issues and this is what led me to shoot up the school,” he wrote.

Jennifer and James Crombley are the first parents in the United States to be charged with a mass school shooting committed by their child. James, 47, is scheduled to stand trial in March on the same manslaughter charges.

Ethan, now 17, is serving a life sentence for murder and terrorism after pleading guilty to the charges in October 2022.

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