Parents of Michigan school shooter to stand trial on involuntary manslaughter

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Detroit: The Michigan Supreme Court turned down an appeal on Tuesday that cleared the way for the parents of a teenager who fatally shot four students at Oxford High School to face trial on involuntary manslaughter charges.

James and Jennifer Crumbley are accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley and ignoring his mental health needs. The state appeals court said in March that the couple could face trial, and the Supreme Court let that decision stand in a one-sentence order.

Jennifer and James Crumbley, the parents of Ethan Crumbley, have been in custody since soon after the shooting in November 2021. Credit:

The case appears to be the first time that parents of a teenage school shooter have been charged for involvement in their child’s alleged crimes, and is seen by some as a litmus test on whether parents can be held accountable in school shootings.

The Crumbleys’ attorneys, Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, were not immediately available for comment, according to Reuters.

Prosecutors argued that the parents can be charged because they showed gross negligence for failing to secure the weapon. The Crumbleys have been accused of knowing their son was troubled and too young to own a gun, but buying him one anyway. The 9mm semi-automatic pistol was used in the slayings two years ago.

Prosecutors in suburban Detroit had to show only that there was probable cause to put the parents on trial, a low threshold at this stage. The appeals court noted that an Oakland County jury will hear a more expansive case from all sides.

The parents had sought to have the charges thrown out.

The shooter killed Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling at Oxford High, about 60 kilometres north of Detroit, in November 2021. Six students and a teacher were also wounded.

Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to terrorism and murder. A judge last week said he is eligible for life in prison without parole.

Ethan Crumbley.Credit:

Attorneys for the parents insist the school shooting was not foreseeable. They acknowledge that bad decisions were made but not ones that should rise to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

The teen and his parents met with school staff the day of the shooting after a teacher noticed violent drawings, but no one checked his backpack for a gun. He was allowed to stay.

The 17-year-old, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, will be sentenced on December 8. The judge will have the option of giving him a prison term that would make him eligible for parole in the decades ahead.

The Crumbley parents have been in custody since shortly after the shooting, unable to afford a $500,000 bond. Their son is in the same jail, though they have no contact with him.

Defence lawyers declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s order, citing a gag order.

Colin King, a psychologist who has met with the teen, has described him as a “feral child” who was neglected by his parents. Judge Kwamé Rowe said his home life was “not ideal,” with his parents often drinking alcohol and arguing, but “not terrible.”

The teen “appeared to have a loving and supportive family,” Rowe said on Friday. “He went on family vacations, owned several pets and had visits from family. … In defendant’s own words, his childhood was ‘good.’”

AP and Reuters

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