Jennifer Crumbley trial: Why is Michigan school shooter’s mother being convicted? Verdict introduces novel theory

Michigan school gunman’s mother has been convicted of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in her son’s crime. As a result, Jennifer Crumbley could face a maximum of 60 years in prison. Her conviction has now become a landmark verdict in mass school shooting legal cases. A Michigan court has emphasised her negligence as a parent, putting her at the centre of the blame cycle for what her son Ethan did nearly three years ago.

Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, enters the court to hear the verdict just before the jury found her guilty on four counts of involuntary manslaughter on at Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac, Michigan, U.S. February 6, 2024. Mandi Wright/USA Today Network via REUTERS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT(via REUTERS)

In November 2021, Ethan Crumbley (17) murdered four classmates and injured seven at Oxford High School in Pontiac, Michigan. Though Crumbley’s son pleaded guilty to his crime and is serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole, several failures on the part of his parents have been brought into consideration. Deeming parental liability as having played a significant role in the criminal activity, the jury deliberated over the new theory for 11 hours.

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Here’s what happened after that.

Results of the Jennifer Crumbley trial

The 45-year-old woman has now become the first parent in America to be convicted for her child’s mass shooting. Her extramarital affair was brought to attention as the trial concluded that she was more interested in it than being with her son.

His parents bought the gun used by Ethan in 2021 – Jennifer and James Crumbley – four days before the shooting.

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Not only did the Crumbleys fail to secure the gun, they had even taken Ethan to a shooting range just days before the killing. Furthermore, their son was going through something, as recorded in his diary entries before the dreadful day. However, his parents completely ignored the red flags.

The diary entry highlighted that Ethan felt the repercussions of his parent’s negligence towards him. Moreover, he wasn’t permitted access to a therapist either. Yet another one focussed on his mental problems, which had been sidelined. In the same entry he added, “it’s causing me to shoot up the f****** school”.

Another alarming incident was also brought to light during the trial. Two hours before the attack, school authorities called Ethan’s mother to the high school, reporting that he had written about “blood everywhere” in a maths textbook.

While the mother will reportedly be sentenced on April 9, the father will stand trial next month. James Crumbley will also be charged for the same involuntary manslaughter charges.

The four children who lost their lives in the mindless shooting rampage in 2021 were Justin Shilling (17), Tate Myre (16), Madisyn Baldwin (17) and Hana St Juliana (14).

During the trial, Jennifer Crumbley told the jurors that she hadn’t noticed any signs of mental distress in Ethan. On the contrary, she said that they did many things together and that she trusted him. However, Ethan’s journal said otherwise.

Prosecutors even introduced text evidence of the same issue wherein Ethan had sent his mother a message in Spring 2021 about various hallucinations about ‘demons’. Other messages presented to the jurors include those Ethan sent to his friend in April 2021. They, too, addressed his complaints about paranoia, insomnia and hearing voices.

The mother, however, reduced it all to him just “messing around”.

Another set of messages produced in the trial were those shared between Ms Crumbley and her husband, friends or others. Some of these again reiterated that she was more interested in her two horses and her extramarital affair than her son.

The trial’s jury consisted of six men and six women. This group included people who either owned guns or had grown up with them in their homes.

In a first-of-its-kind conviction, as the Crumbleys are being brought to trial and held accountable for enabling violence by their son in one way or another, this verdict is set to become an example for rampant gun violence and its following legal procedures.

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