Prosecutors recommend at least 10 years in prison for Crumbleys

Posted at 10:16 PM, April 3, 2024

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP/Scripps News Detroit) — Prosecutors in Michigan are recommending at least 10 years in prison next week for two parents who are the first in the U.S. to be held criminally responsible for a school shooting.

(L) James Crumbley, (R) Jennifer Crumbley (Oakland County Jail)

Jennifer Crumbley showed a “chilling lack of remorse” for her role, and James Crumbley “failed to exercise even the smallest measure of ordinary care” that could have prevented the deaths of four students at Oxford High School in 2021, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday.

The Crumbleys, the parents of shooter Ethan Crumbley, were convicted of involuntary manslaughter at separate trials earlier this year. They were not accused of knowing their son’s plan. But prosecutors said they failed to lock up a gun at home and ignored his mental health.

The maximum prison stay for the crime is 15 years. But the minimum sentence set by the judge on April 9 will be critical because the Crumbleys would be eligible for parole consideration after that time. They will get credit for about 2 1/2 years spent in the Oakland County jail since their arrest.

Messages seeking comment from defense lawyers were not immediately returned Wednesday.

jennifer crumbley appears in court

Jennifer Crumbley awaits the jury’s verdict Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (Court TV)

In their filing, prosecutors disclosed that Jennifer Crumbley, 46, is hoping to avoid prison and instead be fitted with an electronic tether and live with her attorney, Shannon Smith. They said James Crumbley, 47, too, is hoping to be released.

“Such a proposed sentence is a slap in the face to the severity of tragedy caused by defendant’s gross negligence, the victims and their families,” assistant prosecutor Marc Keast said, referring to Jennifer Crumbley.

On the day of the shooting, the Crumbleys went to the school to discuss their son’s morbid drawing of a gun, a bullet, a wounded figure and phrases such as, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”

Instead of taking their son home, the Crumbleys left with a list of contacts for mental health services and returned to work. A few hours later, their son, who was 15 at the time, pulled a Sig Sauer 9 mm handgun from his backpack and began shooting.

james crumbley appears in court

James Crumbley enters the Oakland County Courtroom of Cheryl Matthews, Wednesday, March, 13, 2024 in Pontiac, Mich. Crumbley is charged with involuntary manslaughter, accused of failing to secure a gun at home and ignoring his son’s mental health. Ethan Crumbley killed four students at Oxford High School in 2021. Jury deliberations are set to resume Thursday. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press via AP, Pool)

School staff had not demanded that he be removed from school. But they also didn’t know that James Crumbley had purchased the gun just four days earlier and that it resembled the one in the drawing, according to trial testimony.

The shooter, now 17, is serving life in prison with no chance for parole after pleading guilty to murder and terrorism.

During James Crumbley’s trial, the judge barred his use of a phone and tablet while in jail. The sheriff’s department, which operates the jail, said he had been making threats, though no details were publicly disclosed at the time.

In his court filing, Keast said profanity-laced threats were aimed at Karen McDonald, the elected county prosecutor. The filing said that on Sept. 23, 2022, James Crumbley referred to McDonald as “that f****** stupid w**** b****. He also said “Yeah, YOU f****** Karen McDonald. You’re a f****** stupid b****. I hope you’re listening to this, you f****** b****.

The court filing offered five other examples:

  • “Yeah, Karen McDonald, you’re going down. Yeah. You stupid b****** at the jail. Go ahead, record this call, Send it to Karen McDonald. Tell her how James Crumbley is going to f****** take her down,” James Crumbley said on Oct. 9, 2023.
  • “There will be retribution, believe me,” James Crumbley said on Dec. 23, 2023.
  • “Yeah, f****** Karen McDonald. You’re f***** when I get out,” James Crumbley said on Dec. 20, 2023.
  • “Well, she’s going to be f****** sucking on a f****** hot rock down in hell soon,” James Crumbley said on Dec. 6, 2022.
  • “I am f****** on a rampage, Karen. Yes, Karen McDonald. Your ass is going down and you better be f****** scared,” James Crumbley said on Jan. 3, 2023.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company. The Associated Press contributed to this report.