Staff expressed concerns about a Michigan teenager long before he killed four students during a 2021 school shooting, a counselor testified Monday at the trial of the assailant’s mother.
Ethan Crumbley wrote in a September 2021 assignment that he “feels terrible and that his family is a mistake,” according to a teacher’s email sent to Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins.
Two months later, another teacher said Crumbley, then age 15, was “having a rough time” and might need to speak to the counselor, Hopkins testified.
“I had a quick meeting in the hallway on his way to class and just let him know if he needed somebody to talk to, I could be there for him,” said Hopkins, who didn’t contact Ethan’s parents at the time.
Hopkins was called to the witness stand to describe events that preceded the Nov. 30, 2021, attack.
Jennifer Crumbley, 45, is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say she and her husband were grossly negligent and could have prevented the tragedy if they had tended to their son’s mental health. They’re also accused of making a gun accessible at home.
The third day of trial in Oakland County court broke for lunch while Hopkins was explaining how he had reached out to the shooter’s parents about a violent drawing discovered a few hours before the attack.
Hopkins, who was a counselor to 400 students, said some were stressed out in the fall of 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its second year.
“We saw a lot of depression, anxiety, students struggling,” he recalled. “We saw suicide ideation and, unfortunately, suicide attempts.”
James Crumbley, 47, will stand trial in March. The couple are the first parents in the U.S. to be charged in a mass school shooting committed by their child.
Ethan Crumbley, now 17, pleaded guilty and is serving a life sentence.
Earlier Monday, the operator of an Oxford-area horse stable testified about her relationship with Jennifer Crumbley and a series of messages they exchanged on the day of the shooting and subsequent days before the parents’ arrest.
The Crumbleys owned two horses, and prosecutors have tried to show that they cared more for the animals than their son.
Jennifer Crumbley said she needed to raise cash fast after the shooting and was willing to sell one horse, Billy, for $5,000, plus a saddle and other gear for $800. She promised to deliver medication for mud fever, the horse’s foot disorder.
“I wish we had warnings,” she wrote to Kira Pennock, referring to her son. “I’m glad Billy good. Kills me to sell him.”
Jennifer Crumbley shared a photo of her son’s school drawing with Pennock before the shooting happened. It had images of a gun and a bullet, and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
Pennock said she figured Ethan Crumbley had to be the shooter when she heard about the chaos at the school.
“It’s not normal for somebody to draw these things on a test at school or even think about things in a school setting,” Pennock told the jury.