How Michigan school shooter’s guilty plea could impact his parents’ trial

Posted at 12:34 PM, October 25, 2022 and last updated 8:24 PM, May 11, 2023

By Kiara Hay

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — After pleading guilty to all 24 charges brought against him in connection to the mass school shooting at Oxford High School, Ethan Crumbley potentially threw his parent’s criminal case in a tailspin.

Crumbley admitted that he gave his father the money to purchase the weapon he used to murder four children.

Ethan Crumbley

Ethan Crumbley pleads guilty to 24 charges, including one count of terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder, in last year’s deadly Oxford High School shooting on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (WXYZ)

Crumbley resonded to the following questions:

“Is it true you gave him your own money to buy the firearm?”


“Is it true that you picked that gun out to buy?”


According to retired ATF supervisory special agent Dondald Dawkins, those allegations carry “serious weight behind it. There’s a reason that those kinds of purchases are illegal,” he said.

READ MORE: Teen pleads guilty in Michigan school shooting that killed 4

Nonetheless, Dawkins says there could be some leeway in this case.

Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, a teenager accused of killing four students in a shooting at Oxford High School, appear in court for a preliminary examination on involuntary manslaughter charges in Rochester Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“It’s a straw purchase. On face value it is. But sometimes that flies because it’s in a home, but it still has to be secured. He bought it for his son, it still has to be secured,” he said.

Crumbley admits that it wasn’t.

“Is it true that on November 30, 2021 when you obtained the firearm it was not kept in a locked container or safe? Yes it was not locked,” he said.

Linda Watson’s son Aiden was shot by Ethan but survived. They were in the courtroom Monday listening to Ethan’s claims.

READ MORE: Officials, attorneys speak following teen’s guilty plea in Michigan high school shooting

“It’s incredibly sad and makes you so angry at the same time. And, it’s not over,” Watson said.

But a former federal prosecutor tells us Crumbley’s confessions are contradicting his parents and they could be used in their case.

“His statements in a plea hearing itself cannot be used against the parents at their trial because they have the right of confrontation, in other words, to cross-examine him,” former federal prosecutor Mark Chutkow said.

Chutkow says it is possible, however, for Crumbley to work with the prosecution and testify against his parents.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking but certainly, it has to give them pause,” he said.

This Friday, James and Jennifer Crumbley will be in court regarding expert witness testimony. Their trial date is set for January 17.

This story was originally published Oct.25, 2022 by WXYZ in Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company.